Hamilton, Cruz and Murillo were invited to come to the Vatican after the pope received a 2,300-page report from Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, highly regarded as the Vatican's top abuse investigator, who had traveled to the United States and Chile in February to investigate allegations of cover-up in the Chile case.
Initially the investigation centered on Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was appointed to the diocese in 2015 and who has been accused by Cruz and several others of not only covering up Karadima's abuses, but at times also participating.
Allegations were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – whom Karadima's victims accuse of also covering the abuser's crimes.
While on the ground, Scicluna interviewed some 64 people, most of whom were victims, but the scale of the investigation went beyond Barros. The final report is said to be much more extensive, including details from other cases.
Pope Francis had previous 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. However, just days after he made the comments, news broke that Cruz in 2015 had sent the pope an 8-page letter through the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors with his testimony detailing Barros' presence and involvement in the abuse.
After receiving Archbishop Scicluna's report, Francis issued a major “mea culpa” April 11, saying he had made “serious errors in the judgment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information.”
He invited Cruz, Hamilton and Murillo to meet with him privately at the Vatican, and summoned all of Chile's 32 bishops to Rome in the third week of May, where they will discuss the conclusions of Scicluna's report as well the pope's own conclusions on the matter.
Each of the three men met with Pope Francis individually with no time limit over the weekend, and then again as a group on Monday.
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.
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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.