Pope ends Chile trip, warns of corruption

Pope Francis gestures on board the plane during his flight back from a trip to Chile and Peru

Pope Francis gestures on board the plane during his flight back from a trip to Chile and Peru

They also drew criticism from the Pope's top adviser on clerical sex abuse, the Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

'I know how much they suffer.

'Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty'.

From as early as 2002, his victims told church authorities how he kissed and fondled them in the Santiago parish he ran - but officials refused to believe them.

The victims have said for years that Barros witnessed the abuse and did nothing to stop it. Barros denies the accusations.

As a way to calm the rising tensions and welcome the pope without any major incidents, outgoing Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, asked for calm from Bergoglio┬┤s detractors. The pontiff said "the day someone brings forth proofs against Juan Barros I will speak".

'There is not one shred of proof against him. "This is calumny! Is that clear?"

The Pope has always been a defender of Barros.

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. But he also reaffirmed his support for Bishop Barros, saying he has not received any evidence against him. There is not a single piece of evidence against him.

'Isn't the pastoral problem that we're living (in Osorno) enough to get rid of him?' Claret asked.

His appointment outraged Chileans, badly divided the Osorno diocese and further undermined the church's already shaky credibility in the country.

Peru: Pope Francis' visit took place successfully
Pope ends Chile trip, warns of corruption

They staged an unprecedented protest during his 2015 installation ceremony and have protested his presence ever since.

The pope said that the Vatican had investigated the matter and that no one had yet provided him with convincing evidence against the bishop.

O'Malley's words amounted to an extraordinary effort at Vatican damage control, seeking to walk back the words of the leader of the church.

'Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be believed?'

Authorities say that vandals have attacked another Roman Catholic church with firebombs in Chile.

More than a dozen churches have been damaged by firebombs since January 12.

German Silva, a political scientist at Santiago's Universidad Mayor, said the Pope's comments were a "tremendous error" that will reverberate in Chile and beyond.

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".

"This is a demanding yet exciting programme", he said, "which makes us think us of the heroic accomplishments of Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo, archbishop of this see and patron of the Latin American episcopate, an example of a "builder of ecclesial unity", as my predecessor, Saint John Paul II described him during his first Apostolic Visit to this land".

"Here I have to apologize because the word "proof" hurt them, it hurt a lot of abused people", Francis told reporters late Sunday aboard the papal plane on a flight from Lima to Rome.

In February 2011, after several years of a Catholic canonical investigation, the Vatican found Karadima guilty of sexually abusing minors and psychological abuse in Chile.

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