VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The 34 bishops of Chile are offering to resign in the wake of a clerical sex abuse scandal.
On Thursday, at the close of a three-day meeting in Rome with Pope Francis, 34 bishops of Chile offered an en masse resignation to the Pope. The 31 serving bishops and three retired bishops signed the joint letter of resignation on Friday.
Bishop Juan Ignacio González Errázuriz of San Bernardo read a statement from all the Chilean bishops to the Spanish-language press on Friday.
"We want to announce that all bishops present in Rome, in writing, have placed our positions in the Holy Father's hands so that he may freely decide regarding each one of us," the statement said.
The bishops' statement pleaded, "We want to ask forgiveness for the pain we caused victims, the Pope, the people of God and our country for the grave errors and omissions that we committed."
This comes one day after the bishops of Chile were summoned to Rome for a three-day emergency meeting with Pope Francis about the priestly sex abuse crisis.
One of the specific subjects of the meeting was the Pope's mishandling of allegations against Bp. Juan Barros of protecting a sexually abusive priest.
Bishop Barros has been accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by a priest. When asked about the allegations against the bishop during his trip to Latin America earlier this year, Pope Francis defended Barros, claiming the accusers lacked evidence and were smearing the Church.
Another subject of the meeting with Chile's bishops was a 2,300-page report detailing clerical sex abuse in Chile. The report, which has yet to be made public, is the result of investigations headed by Maltese Abp. Charles Scicluna and Spanish Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu.
During the three-day meeting, Pope Francis wrote a scathing 10-page letter to the bishops of Chile, blasting them for sheltering abusers in their dioceses. This letter was leaked to Chilean media. In a footnote, the Pope accuses the bishops of destroying evidence related to priest sex abuse cases.
The leaked document states that the crisis in Chile cannot simply be fixed by "addressing the concrete cases and reducing them to the removal of people; this — and I say this clearly — must be done, but it's not enough, we must go further."
In a different letter, released publicly by the Vatican on Thursday, the Pope instructed the Chilean bishops to work towards "a prophetic Church, capable of putting at the center what's important: service to her Lord in the hungry, the imprisoned, the migrant, the abused."
The Chilean bishops' joint statement on Friday expressed respect and gratitude to victims of clerical sex abuse, saying, "Thank you to the victims, for their perseverance and their bravery, despite the enormous personal spiritual, social, and family difficulties they've had to face so many times, amidst the incomprehension and the attacks from the ecclesial community itself."