ON BOARD THE PAPAL PLANE – Pope Francis took advantage of a press conference aboard his plane on Monday to apologize for any child sexual abuse that involved the Roman Catholic Church and said he would maintain a zero-tolerance approach to abuse committed by its clergy, topics that dogged his recent trip to Chile and Peru.
The pontiff’s flight back from South America was punctuated by turbulence that forced him to sit down among journalists at one point.
“You know that Pope Benedict XVI started with zero tolerance and I have continued with it,” Francis said.
In Chile, the case of Juan Barros, bishop of the Osorno diocese, had dogged his visit, especially after the Pope expressed his unwillingness to relieve him of his post despite accusations that the latter had covered up priest Fernando Karadima, who had been found to have sexually abused minors.
Regarding the Barros case, Francis reiterated his belief that the bishop was innocent because no one has presented any evidence to support accusations of a deliberate cover-up.
However, the Pope made an apology to the victims for the statements he made when he recognized that asking for “evidence” might have “hurt them.”