Chilean bishops' efforts to prevent sex abuse affirmed by Pope Francis

Pope Francis meets with bishops in the sacristy of the Santiago Cathedral in Chile on January 16 2018 Credit Vatican Media 1 CNA Pope Francis meets with the Chilean bishops in the sacristy of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, Jan. 16, 2018. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis on Friday wrote to the Chilean bishops' conference to express his approval of their newly-adopted plan to prevent future instances of sex abuse within the Church.

"I was impressed by the work of reflection, discernment, and decisions that you have made," the Pope wrote in his Aug. 5 letter to Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales of Chile's military diocese, who is president of the Chilean bishops' conference.

"May the Lord repay you abundantly in this communitarian and pastoral effort."

"The decisions are realistic and concrete," he said. "I am sure that they will help decidedly in this entire process. But what touched me most was the example of episcopal community united in the pastoral care of the holy, faithful people of God. Thank you for this edifying example … because it 'builds' the Church."

Francis was responding to the Aug. 3 statement issued at the conclusion of the week-long meeting of the Chilean bishops to consider the roots of the crisis of sexual abuse in the Church in their country and then to define guidelines to implement in their dioceses.

The bishops acknowledged they had failed in their duty as pastors in face of the cases of sexual abuse committed by priests and therefore presented some short- and medium-term measures in order to determine the truth and to secure justice and reparation for the victims.

The bishops expressed their repentance because "we did not always know how apply or implement  in every church setting the guidelines of the National Council for Prevention of Abuse in order to opportunely address cases of sexual abuse."

"Our faults and omisions have caused pain and perplexity, have harmed ecclesial communion and hindered conversion, and undermined hoped," they added.

"In no way did we want to cause or aggravate the harm that has occurred, but seen from the perspective of time, some of us could have been more active and attentive to the pain suffered by the victims, relatives, and the ecclesial community," they stated.

The first measure announced by the bishops was their intention to cooperate with the investigations being conducted in the criminal justice system, duly protecting "the names of the complainants and victims that expressly requested that their identity be withheld."

The Chilean bishops also announced the publication of every preliminary investigation being conducted regarding the alleged sexual abuse of minors, and asked religious congregations to do the same.

The bishops appointed attorney Ana María Celis as president of the National Council for the Prevention of Abuse and the Accompaniment of Victims, a position held in interim by Bishop Silva.

They also approved new powers for the National Council for the Prevention of Abuse, so it can gather up-to-date information on the investigations and criminal proceedings.

The bishops also confirmed the creation of a Department for the Prevention of Abuse, which will report to the council, and will have the faculty to execute actions and receive complaints in accordance with canonical norms.

Finally, the bishops announced that the list of the names of priests sentenced civilly and canonically for abusing minors will be posted again on the council's website.

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