Pope apologizes to Chile for "irreparable damage" from child abuse

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The pope's first official meeting in Chile was at La Moneda Palace, where the president and other civil authorities were waiting for him. 

As head of state, Pope Francis was received with honors.

In March, Sebastián Piñera, the winner of the elections, will be named president and the current president will leave the position. In her speech she said that Pope Francis should feel at home, and she remembered John Paul II’s visit 30 years ago.

President of Chile

'Today we do much more than open the doors of La Moneda. Today we open the doors of Chile to a friend. Thirty years ago, John Paul II visited us. He came amidst the anxiety we felt to expose the reality of a wounded country. We needed the world’s eyes to accompany us, to help us overcome the lack of freedom. That hopeful voice came and contributed to our country reconnecting years later.'

Pope Francis then asked democracy to go a step further, based on their ability to listen to everyone. He said this is the key to the future of Chile.

That future depends, in a large part, on the ability of its people and leaders to listen. Such a capacity to listen proves most important in this nation, where its ethnic, cultural and historical diversity must be preserved from all partisan spirit or attempts at supremacy that puts at stake the capacity to replace narrow ideologies with a healthy concern for the common good.'

The pope also publicly requested forgiveness for cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by priests.

'Here I feel bound to express my pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the Church. I want to unite with my brother bishops, for it is right to ask for forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims.'

In Chile, the several cases of abuse and how the Church managed the situation caused not only shock, but also a deep pain.

That is why Pope Francis’ words were received with a loud applause. At the end of the event, before leaving to celebrate Mass at O'Higgins Park, the pope met with Michelle Bachelet for several minutes.

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