In a joint statement issued May 2, the survivors said they have been treated as “enemies” of the Church for nearly 10 years for their outspoken criticism of abuse and cover-up in the Church, but that this weekend's meetings allowed them to meet “the friendly face of the Church, completely different form the one we had seen before.”
Pope Francis, they said, asked for forgiveness in his name and on behalf of the entire universal Church.
“We were able to speak frankly and respectfully with the pope,” they said, explaining that major themes brought up included not only sexual abuse, but also cover-up and abuse of power, which they said are not isolated to Chile, but are “an epidemic” that has affected thousands of people throughout the global Church.
Despite their abuse, the survivors said they have met many priests and men and women religious who are fighting for justice, and called them “courageous” people who have made progress in the fight against abuse and cover-up.
Pope Francis, they said, was “very attentive, receptive and very empathetic during the intense and long hours of conversation.”
During the audiences, the pope also asked the men for their opinion on both “specific and theoretical” aspects of the issue, and asked to stay in touch with them to hear their thoughts and recommendations for the future.
The victims also called for action, saying that the Church “has the duty to become an ally and a guide in the global fight against abuse, and a refuge for the victims,” something that they said is not sufficiently happening today.
“We hope that Pope Francis transforms his loving words of forgiveness into exemplary actions. Otherwise, all this will be in vain.”
In comments to the press during a May 2 news briefing on their meetings, the survivors unanimously said they believed the pope had been grossly misinformed about the situation by those around him, and was truly repentant for the mistakes he made.
Cruz said he didn't ask about whether Francis had read his letter from 2015, but said he was able to communicate everything he had wanted during their face-to-face meeting.
“We spoke very frankly and very directly,” he said, adding that “it was clear that the pope was misinformed.”
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Cruz said he told the pope that “it hurt tremendously” when he said their accusations against Barros were “calumny,” and told him to watch out for “these toxic people that surround him.”
In his comments to the press, Hamilton pinned a large part of the blame on Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, nuncio to Chile since 2011, and Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago and a member of Pope Francis' council of cardinal advisors.
Hamilton said that Errazuriz failed to act upon the abuse reports he raised, despite being told by the Chilean Promoter of Justice that they were credible and should be followed up with canonical prosecution.
“So Cardinal Errazuriz was covering up for more than 5 years the criminal of Karadima and all of his acts,” Hamilton said.
After their conversations, Hamilton said he believes Francis is now well informed on the situation, which is why he asked for the visit. “Everybody deserves a second chance, especially in this case,” he said.
However, all three men stressed the importance of following up with action after the meetings.