Pope makes difficult trip to Chile and Peru

What happened?

Pope Francis has rebuked Chilean abuse survivors who accused Bishop Juan Barros of covering up sexual abuse. On his trip to Chile, the Pope had said: “There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?”

On the flight home, Francis said that he should have said “proof”, not evidence, and that the latter word was “not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart”. He admitted that his statement had been “a slap in the face” for victims.

What abuse survivors are saying

Before the Pope expressed regret, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the main Vatican adviser on child protection, said it was “understandable” that the Pope’s statements “were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator”.

Several abuse survivors expressed dismay at his remarks. Anne Barrett Doyle, who runs the website BishopAccountability.org, told the Guardian that Francis had “turned back the clock to the darkest days of this crisis. Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be believed?”

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