Pope wraps Latin America trip haunted by Chile abuse scandal

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Caught in a renewed firestorm of controversy, Pope Francis apologized for remarks he made last week defending a Chilean bishop accused of covering up decades of sexual abuse.

Pope Francis has defended his decision to perform an airborne wedding while flying over Chile, saying the two flight attendants were properly prepared for the sacrament and that refusing them might have meant they would never get around to being married in the Church. "What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones".

"I apologize for hurting them without realizing it".

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston and the chairman of the Vatican's commission on sexual abuse, also was critical of the pope's comments, saying in a statement that he understands how Francis' words were a "source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator". While the bishop's critics had pressed their case with media representatives, the Pope said that "they didn't present themselves" and thus he saw no evidence supporting their charges against Bishop Barros. I would say "evidence.' In Barros" case, it was studied.

'There is not one shred of proof against him. "It's all calumny. Is that clear?"

The pope thus implied that the victims who have accused Barros have not convinced Francis that the bishop was involved in a whitewash of sexual misconduct.

The global fallout from Francis' comments was so intense that U.S. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston and the pope's top adviser on clergy sexual abuse, issued a statement Saturday calling Francis' words a "source of great pain for survivors", who were left in "discredited exile". According to a video of the conversation released by Chile's Ahora Noticias, the Pope told Coiro that "the only accusation against that bishop was discredited by the judicial court".

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But The Associated Press reported last week that the Vatican was so anxious about the fallout from the Karadima affair that it was prepared in 2014 to ask Barros and two other Karadima-trained bishops to resign and go on a yearlong sabbatical. I don't have evidence to convict.

In his comments on the plane, the pope disclosed that Barros had offered to resign twice in recent years but Francis rejected the offers.

Numerous local faithful are still furious over a 2015 decision by Pope Francis to appoint Barros, who had been one of Karadima's proteges.

Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima's most vocal victims, was angered by Francis' demand for "proof". In Philadelphia, for example, Pope Francis' meeting with three victims was made public but other meetings were not. He denied that the expiration was a sign that the commission was not a high priority.

Francis said Sunday a new membership roster had been put to him earlier this month and was being reviewed.

Francis ordered the Vatican to appoint an administrator to run the society, Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a week before his trip.

Pope Francis noted to those on the plane: "One of you told me that I'm insane for doing these things", but he responded that "the thing was simple: The man was on the first flight".

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