VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After meeting with Pope Francis for
more than four hours, a Chilean priest who suffered abuse and a priest
who ministers to survivors said they felt comforted and hopeful for the church's future in their country.
The pope met June 2 with five priests who the Vatican
described as being "victims of abuses of power, of conscience and of sexual
Two priests who have accompanied the survivors "in
their juridical and spiritual journey" and "two laypeople involved in
this suffering" also were invited by Pope Francis. They were all guests at
the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where Pope Francis lives.
Speaking to journalists after the groups' final meeting with
the pope June 2, Father Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, who has accompanied
survivors of abuse, said the pope asked forgiveness for the abuse and
subsequent cover-ups committed by members of the church.
"What he told us in the last meeting was, 'I ask
forgiveness. I ask you for forgiveness in the name of the church for what you
have lived, for what you have told me. I ask forgiveness.' And that is very
comforting and shows great humility on the part of the Holy Father, to once
again ask for forgiveness. I am very grateful to the pope," Father
In addition to Father Astaburuaga, the priests meeting the
pope were Fathers Eugenio de la Fuente Lora, Alejandro Vial Amunategui, Javier
Barros Bascunan and Sergio Cobo Montalva.
The four other members of the group wished to remain
Father de la Fuente, a survivor of abuse, told journalists
that he came to Rome with three expectations: "gratitude for the pope's
invitation; the comfort of knowing that we will meet with Peter, with the Holy
Father; and also hope."
The pope, he said, "greatly exceeded my
"I have an immense gratitude for his welcoming. I was greatly
comforted to be completely understood by an admirably empathetic person, who
suffered with my pain, and I have great hope because he has a very ample and
profound understanding of the problem," he said. The pope also has
identified "concrete paths for moving forward."
Although Father de la Fuente did not provide details of the decisions
the pope has made with regard to the culture of abuse and cover-up in the
Chilean church, he said that they would take time and involve steps for "the
short, medium and long term."
Father Astaburuaga said that he was greatly consoled by the
pope and confirmed that his over 20 years of counseling survivors of abuse
"was not in vain."
The pope celebrated a private Mass with the group June 2 and
met with members of the group together and individually, a Vatican statement
The aim of the meetings was to achieve a greater
understanding of "the reality lived by some of the faithful and Chilean
clergy," the Vatican statement said.
"With the help of these five priests, the pope seeks to
remedy the internal rupture of the community. Thus, rebuilding a healthy
relationship between the faithful and their shepherds can begin, once all are
conscious of their own wounds," the Vatican said.
Like the three laymen Pope Francis hosted in late April, the
priests were abused by Father Fernando Karadima and his followers in the parish
of Sagrado Corazon de Providencia, also known as the community of "El
Bosque" ("The Forest").
Known as an influential and charismatic priest, Father
Karadima founded a Catholic Action group in the wealthy Santiago parish and
drew hundreds of young men to the priesthood. Four of Father Karadima's
proteges went on to become bishops, including Bishop Juan Barros of
However, several former seminarians of "El Bosque"
revealed in 2010 that the Chilean priest sexually abused them and other members
of the parish community for years. One year later, Father Karadima was
sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance after he was found
guilty of sexual abuse.
Before the meetings began, Father Astaburuaga told Catholic
News Service he was going with an "open heart and mind to be surprised by
"Tomorrow I go with an open heart to speak with the
pope. He wants to listen to us and we want to share with him," he told CNS