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On Visit To Chile, Pope Asks For Forgiveness Over Sex-Abuse Scandal

17 January 2018

While many Chilean Catholics flocked to see the Pope and welcomed his visit to Chile, protesters demonstrated against him Tuesday and clashed with police near the park where he celebrated mass. Police employed water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Numerous demonstrators chanted "paedophile accomplices" as they approached the park.

Scores of people were arrested in the southern city of Concepción after demonstrating against the government, claiming they "would not show the real image of Chile" to Pope Francis.

But the scandal has gripped Chile, and, along with growing secularisation, has hurt the standing of the Church that had been praised for defending human rights during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. But today, Chile is the Latin American country most critical of the Vatican.

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Nearly 80 Chilean priests, deacons and religious brothers who have been accused of molesting children were named in a database published by the Boston-based research group on January 10.

The US-based NGO Bishop Accountability said ahead of the visit that nearly 80 Roman Catholic clergy members had been accused of sexually abusing children in Chile since 2000.

"People are leaving the church because they don't find a protective space there", Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of church members in Osorno that has opposed Barros' appointment as bishop, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

He said: "We are not against the visit of the Pope".

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The pope later told representatives of Chile's clergy at a packed Santiago cathedral that he was "attentive to what you are doing to respond to this great and painful evil".

"I know that at times you have been insulted in the metro or walking in the street, and that by going around in clerical attire in many places, you pay a heavy price", Francis said.

Pope Francis greets the faithful from the popemobile during his route to O'Higgins Park, where he will hold a Mass, in Santiago, Chile, Jan. 16, 2018.

Francis also faced controversy on another front: Overnight three more Catholic churches were torched, two in the southern Araucania region where Francis will visit on Wednesday to meet with Chile's indigenous peoples. He later brought some inmates to tears during an emotional visit to a women's prison.

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On Visit To Chile, Pope Asks For Forgiveness Over Sex-Abuse Scandal