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Pope Francis admits "grave errors" in judgment in Chile sex abuse scandal

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis has admitted he made "grave errors" in judgment in Chile's sex abuse scandal and invited the abuse victims he had discredited to Rome to beg their forgiveness. In an extraordinary letter published Wednesday, Francis also summoned Chile's bishops to the Vatican for an emergency meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the scandal, which has badly tarnished his reputation and that of the Chilean church. 

Francis blamed a lack of "true and balanced information" in his missteps in judging Bishop Juan Barros, a protege of Chile's most notorious predator priest. Francis strongly defended Barros, despite accusations by victims that the Chilean priest witnessed and ignored their abuse. 

Francis sent the Vatican's most respected sex abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, to investigate allegations of sex abuse cover-up by Barros, a protege of the Rev. Fernando Karadima. The Vatican removed Karadima from ministry for sexually abusing minors.

Scicluna and his colleague, the Rev. Jordi Bertomeu, spent nearly two weeks in Chile and New York earlier this year interviewing Karadima's victims, who for years have denounced Barros' silence and were stunned by Francis' strong defense of him during his January visit to Chile. 

Many of Chile's bishops, and members of Francis' own sex abuse advisory board, had questioned Barros' suitability to lead a diocese given claims by Karadima's victims that Barros stood by and did nothing while Karadima groped them.

While the pope's letter doesn't reveal Scicluna's conclusions, Francis made clear the bishops needed to "repair the scandal where possible and re-establish justice."