All Chile’s 34 Roman Catholic bishops who attended a crisis meeting this week with Pope Francis in the wake of a child sex scandal and cover-up have offered to resign.
The bishops also apologised to Chile, the victims of abuse and the pope for the scandal as they released an extraordinary joint statement.
“We, all the bishops present in Rome, have tendered our resignation to the Holy Father so that he may decide freely for each of us,” the bishops said in a statement after three days of intense meetings with Francis at the Vatican.
“We want to ask forgiveness for the pain caused to the victims, to the Pope, to God’s people and to our country for the serious errors and omissions we have committed,” the statement continued.
It was not immediately clear if the pope, who had slammed them had accepted their resignation.
He had been criticised in Chile for his decision to ordain a bishop who is accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by a priest.
He said in January that he felt “pain and shame” over the scandal, which has rocked the Catholic Church in Chile.
The bishops announced at the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis that all 31 active bishops and three retired ones in Rome had signed a document offering to resign and putting their fate in the hands of the pope.
Francis can accept the resignations one by one, reject them or delay a decision.
On Thursday evening, Francis promised “changes” to the Chilean church to “restore justice” in a short declaration to the bishops, made public.
But in a confidential 10-page document leaked on Friday by Chilean TV channel T13, the Argentine pope goes much further in his indictment of the Chilean Church.
The letter — handed to the bishops at the start of their meetings with Francis — evokes “crimes” and “painful and shameful sexual abuse of minors, abuses of power and conscience by ministers of the Church”.
It qualifies the removal of certain prelates from their roles as necessary but “insufficient,” calling for “the roots” that allowed for such abuse within an “elitist and authoritarian” Chilean Church to be examined.
The damning letter also outlines findings of an investigation, ordered by Pope Francis, into the abuse allegations.