Pope Francis admitted Wednesday he made "grave errors" in judgment in Chile's sex abuse scandal and invited the victims he had discredited to Rome to beg their forgiveness. In an extraordinary public letter, Francis also summoned all of Chile's bishops to the Vatican for an emergency meeting in the coming weeks to discuss repairing the damage from the scandal, which has badly tarnished his reputation and that of the Chilean church. The Vatican orders up such emergency visits only on rare occasions, such as when American bishops were summoned in 2002 after the clerical sex abuse scandal exploded in the US, reports the AP. Francis blamed a lack of "truthful and balanced information" for his missteps in judging the case of Bishop Juan Barros, a protege of Chile's most notorious predator priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima.
Francis strongly defended the bishop during his January visit to Chile despite accusations by victims that Barros had witnessed and ignored their abuse. He demanded the victims present "proof" of their claims and revealed he had twice rejected Barros' resignation. "I am convinced he is innocent," the pope insisted. After causing an outcry, Francis sent the Vatican's most respected sex abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, to look into the scandal. The letter didn't reveal his ultimate conclusions about Barros. Chilean bishops have insisted they had been truthful to Francis about the need to get rid of Barros, and victims' advocates said Francis had only himself to blame, since the accusations against Barros were well known and well-founded; one victim sent the pope an 8-page letter in 2015. The AP has much more here.