Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Pope begs forgiveness for 'irreparable' harm from sex abuse

Published:Wednesday | January 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
People in traditional dress arrive for a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at O'Higgins Park in Santiago, Chile, yesterday.


Pope Francis begged for forgiveness yesterday for the "irreparable damage" done to children who were raped and molested by priests, opening his visit to Chile by diving head-first into a scandal that has greatly hurt the Catholic Church's credibility in the country and cast a cloud over his visit.

Francis faced controversy on another front as well: Overnight, three more Catholic churches were torched, including one burnt to the ground in the southern Araucania region, where Francis will visit on Wednesday to meet with Chile's indigenous peoples. While not causing any injuries, the nine church firebombings in the past few days have marked an unprecedented level of protest against history's first Latin American Pope on his home turf.

In Santiago, though, an estimated 400,000 jubilant Chileans turned out in droves for his first public Mass, a massive gathering in the capital's O'Higgins park, where St John Paul II celebrated Mass three decades ago. Francis took a long, looping ride in his popemobile through the grounds to greet well-wishers, some of whom had camped out overnight to secure a spot.

In his first event of the day, Francis met privately with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and addressed lawmakers, judges and other authorities at La Moneda palace. They interrupted him with applause when he said he felt "bound to express my pain and shame" that some of Chile's pastors had sexually abused children in their care.

"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 said.