During his first day in Santiago, Pope Francis spoke to a crowd of dignitaries, which included Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, as well as politicians, judges and other authorities at La Moneda Palace. Speaking of the “irreparable damage” that has been inflicted by deviant priests and the Church officials who protected them, he said he felt “bound to express my pain and shame” regarding their actions.
Addressing the crowd, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness then went on to say: “I am one with my brother bishops, for it is right to ask forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again.”
He then added “and here I can not stop expressing the pain and shame I feel at the irreparable damage caused to children by ministers of the church.”
Pope Francis’ visit to Chile comes in the middle of great controversy as the Catholic Church in the region finds itself in significant decline following the revelation of a wave of sexual abuse cases involving priests. On the eve of the first day of his visit, 3 more Catholic Churches were burned, and local police were forced to use tear gas and water cannons to disband an anti-Pope protest which took place outside of O’Higgins Park where 400,000 pilgrims gathered to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis.
On Tuesday, Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, told reporters the Pontiff met with abuse survivors throughout the day. Pope Francis wept with them, and offered them heartfelt apologies for the harm that has come to them at the hands of the Catholic Church.
Despite the unrest in the region and the large-scale opposition to Pope Francis’ visit, for many Chileans, the unexpected apology and Pope Francis’ sincere apologies go a long way toward reparations.