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Chile’s Bishops Resign Over Sex Abuse Scandal, Victims Rejoice

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

All of Chile’s bishops offered to resign over their church’s sex abuse scandal in a historic move that garnered praise from sex abuse victims.

The move marks the first time in history that an entire bishops’ conference — 31 active bishops in Chile and three retired bishops in Rome — has offered to resign, according to The Associated Press. The mass resignation came at the conclusion of an emergency summit between the bishops and Pope Francis, after which the bishops announced that they had all signed a document offering their resignations to Francis, who will now decide their fate. Chilean victims of sex abuse cheered the mass resignation and called for Francis to bring the hammer down.

“For dignity, justice and truth: Leave all the bishops. Criminals. They did not know how to protect the weakest, exposed them to abuses and then prevented justice. That’s why they just deserve to leave,” tweeted José Andrés Murillo, a victim of sex abuse who spent several days discussing the issue with Francis earlier in May. (RELATED: Pope Admits Guilt To Sex Abuse Victims: ‘I Was Part Of The Problem’)

Juan Carlos Cruz, another survivor of sex abuse at the hands of the Chilean church who sent a letter to Francis detailing the abuses and the involvement of Bishop Juan Barros, also praised the resignation over Twitter. He called it “unprecedented” and said it “changes things forever.”

Francis delivered a 10-page document during the summit to the bishops, based on a 2,300-page report on the Vatican investigation into the Chilean sex abuse scandal, in which he accused the hierarchy of the Chilean church of “grave negligence” in their handling of sex abuse cases. He lambasted them for responding to allegations of abuse with superficial investigations and sometimes with no investigations at all. Francis also accused them of hiding or destroying evidence and cajoling attorneys to downplay allegations.

“No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others,” Francis wrote in the document, according to The AP.

Francis said all bishops involved bore blame, but himself “first of all.”

Francis also stated that while the resignations are necessary, they are not the last of the work to be done in addressing the scandal that has beset the Catholic church in Chile.

“The problems inside the church community can’t be solved just by dealing with individual cases and reducing them to the removal of people, though this — and I say so clearly — has to be done,” Francis wrote, according to The AP. “But it’s not enough, we have to go beyond that. It would be irresponsible on our part to not look deeply into the roots and the structures that allowed these concrete events to occur and perpetuate.”

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