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Papal Envoy Asks Forgiveness in Divided Chilean Diocese

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, center, attends a meeting with priest and nuns at the San Mateo Cathedral in Osorno, Chile, Saturday, June 16, 2018.

A papal emissary asked forgiveness Sunday from Roman Catholics in a region of Chile where people bitterly protested a now-resigned bishop who had once been a lieutenant of the country's most notorious predator priest.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna said a Mass and told worshippers that "Pope Francis has given me the task of asking pardon from all of the faithful in the diocese of Osorno."

The pope at one point had dismissed complaints against Bishop Juan Barros as "stupid." But he switched course after ordering an investigation led by Scicluna and himself meeting with victims of abuse. A week ago, Francis accepted the resignation of Barrios and two other bishops.

Sunday's Mass drew groups of people who had stayed away from church because of Barrios' original appointment as well as his supporters.

Barros has been at the center of Chile's growing scandal of clerical sex abuse ever since Francis appointed him bishop in 2015 over the objections of the local faithful, the pope's own sex abuse prevention advisers and some of Chile's other bishops.

The critics questioned Barros' suitability to lead since he had been a top lieutenant of Chile's most notorious predator priest and had been accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring their abuse by that priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima. Barros denied the charge, but he twice offered to resign in the ensuing years.