Pope Francis asks forgiveness for sexual abuse done by Catholic clergy

Latin America

Pope Francis has admitted his ‘pain and shame’ over the sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy while visiting Chile. His official trip has been marked by protests and the firebombing of nine churches.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports from the region.

Thousands lined the streets of the Chilean capital Santiago to greet the Pope’s arrival on Monday. On his first full day in the country, flanked by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet and other officials, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness.

“Here I feel bound to express my pain and shame, the shame that I feel, at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the Church,” he said. “It is right to ask for forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again.”

But his apology was followed by protests and clashes between demonstrators and police. Many Catholic are angry over the Pope’s 2015 appointment of a bishop they accuse of protecting a pedophile priest, Fernando Karadima.

In 2011, the Vatican found Karadima guilty of sexually abusing teenage boys over many years. One poll in the capital found 90 percent of respondents said they wanted the Pope to meet abuse survivors and condemn Karadima.

Others protested the cost of the Papal trip, and nine churches have been firebombed just in the last few days. Indigenous Mapuche have demanded the church return their ancestral lands.

Another regional survey found that 42 percent of Chileans approve of Francis, a much lower score than the 68 percent approval given in neighboring countries.

Huge crowds are expected to greet Pope Francis when he arrives in Peru later this week, but he faces criticism there, too. The church is taking heat for its perceived late reaction to a local abuse scandal and familiar accusations that it failed to hold the alleged perpetrators to account.