SANTIAGO – Pope Francis has pleaded for forgiveness from victims of child abuse at the hands of the clergy in Chile, during his first public speech on his visit to the South American country on Tuesday.
The pontiff had been widely expected to address the scandal ahead of his visit to Chile.
“I cannot express enough the pain and shame I feel due to the irreparable damage caused to children by those in the church,” Francis said during a ceremony at the Moneda presidential palace in the capital Santiago.
The remarks from the head of the Catholic Church were met with applause from the roughly 700 people who had gathered to hear his speech.
Francis said asking for forgiveness was the right thing to do, as was supporting victims and making sure that such crimes were never repeated.
Analysts predicted that Chile would prove a difficult visit for the Argentine in the wake of a slew of child abuse scandals implicating the Chilean Catholic Church and the Vatican.
Ahead of his arrival, Bishop Accountability, an organization that tracks child abuse in the Catholic Church, released a list of 80 priests, clergymen and a nun accused of sexually abusing children in the South American country.
Furthermore, in the southern diocese of Osorno, protesters have called for archbishop Juan Barros to resign for allegedly aiding in the cover-up of child abuse committed by Chilean pedophile priest Fernando Karadima.
Karadima was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 following an investigation that critics said was long overdue.