“Full of hope”

Priests from the South American country invited by Pope Francis for talks on the church abuse scandal in Chile have drawn a positive conclusion from the meeting.

"After these very personal talks, we are full of hope," Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa told journalists in Rome on Saturday evening. They said the pope had asked for forgiveness. The talks were about consolation and the healing of wounds.

Guests from circle of convicted priest

According to Eugenio de la Fuente Lora, the entire meeting lasted four and a quarter hours, including a service that the Pope celebrated with the group. In the morning, Francis spoke individually with his guests.

These are five clergymen from the circle of the now 87-year-old priest Fernando Karadima, who was convicted of sexual offenses by the Vatican in 2011. They are accompanied by two other priests who provided legal and spiritual assistance to victims, as well as two lay people.

The group has been staying at the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse since Friday and will fly back to Chile on Monday afternoon.

Appeal: profound change needed in church

This weekend's meeting is the third round of talks to address the abuse scandal in Chile. In mid-May, the country's bishops were already in the Vatican. 29 of 31 active senior shepherds then offered to step down from office.

The pope began his talks in late April during a nearly week-long meeting with three victims of abuse from Chile.

Astaburuaga Ossa and de la Fuente Lora stressed there must be profound change in the church overall. That the ordinary faithful, for example, are called upon to say even critical things to priests and bishops, as the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) dictates, is still far too little realized in the church, he said.

Pope wrote personal letter to Chile's Catholics

This week, Francis had also addressed Chilean Catholics in a personal letter, calling on them to renew church life. He said the "culture of abuse" and the "system of cover-up" could only be eliminated with everyone's cooperation.

The eight-page letter was released Thursday by the Chilean Bishops' Conference in Santiago de Chile.

For the Church in the country, not only credibility is at stake. Currently, voices are being raised in Chilean media calling for a truth commission, financial compensation or the abolition of legal privileges for Catholic institutions.

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Christina Cherry
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