VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will meet for three days next month with victims of a Chilean priest who committed sexual abuse as well as abuse of power and conscience, in an effort to respond to the country’s clerical sex-abuse crisis.
The Holy See Press Office stated May 22 that Pope Francis will receive a second group of victims of Father Fernando Karadima and his followers at the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse June 1-3.
The group of nine includes five priests who were victims of abuse of power, conscience and sexuality; two priests who have been assisting the victims; and two laypeople.
Most of those coming to the Vatican participated in Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta’s investigation of abuse cover-up by the hierarchy in Chile, which took place in February. The others worked with the investigation after the archbishop’s time in Chile.
“With this new meeting, scheduled a month ago, Pope Francis wants to demonstrate his closeness to abused priests, to accompany them in their pain and to listen to their valuable views to improve the current preventive measures and the fight against abuses in the Church,” the Holy See Press Office said.
The meeting will conclude the Pope’s first round of meetings with the victims of abuses that occurred at Karadima’s Sacred Heart parish in Santiago.
“These priests and laypeople represent all the victims of abuses by clerics in Chile, but it is not ruled out that similar initiatives may be repeated in the future.”
The visit will include various meetings, “which will take place in an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality.” Pope Francis will say Mass for the group June 2, after which there will be a group meeting, followed by individual conversations.
“The Holy Father continues to ask the faithful of Chile — and especially the faithful of the parishes where these priests carry out their pastoral ministry — to accompany them with prayer and solidarity during these days.”
Francis had met with three more of Father Karadima’s victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Andres Murillo, at the Vatican April 27-30. Cruz, who has same-sex attraction, told a Spanish newspaper May 20 that the Pope had told him to accept himself and his attraction, because God made him that way.
Father Karadima was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011 of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. He has not been sentenced by civil courts because of Chile’s statue of limitations.
A sacerdotal association that Father Karadima had led, the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart, was suppressed within a year of his conviction.
Attention to the abuse has heightened since the 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid to the Diocese of Osorno. Barros had been accused of covering up Father Karadima’s abuses.
Pope Francis initially defended Bishop Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop’s guilt and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. He later relented and sent Archbishop Scicluna to investigate the situation in Chile.
After receiving Archbishop Scicluna’s report, Francis apologized, said that he had been seriously mistaken and asked to meet the country’s bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.
He met with Chile’s bishops May 15-17. As a result, each of them tendered letters of resignation, which Pope Francis has yet to accept or reject. The Pope also gave the bishops a letter chastising them for systemic cover-up of clerical abuse and calling them to institute deep changes.
On May 19, Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić of Rancagua suspended several priests after allegations of sexual misconduct were raised against them. He also apologized for not following up when the accusations were first brought to his attention.