VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis will play host to a second group of victims of priestly sexual abuse in Chile, the Vatican said on Tuesday, days after the country’s bishops all offered to resign over the scandal.
Earlier this month, the pope met three men who were victims of a priest accused of abusing boys in Santiago in the 1970s and 1980s. The second group includes priests who also fell foul of the same disgraced churchman, the Vatican said.
The five men, accompanied by two other priests who have helped them and two lay people, will see the pope from June 1-3.
“With these new meetings ... Pope Francis wants to show how close he is to the abused priests, help them with their pain and hear their precious views on how to improve current preventative measures and to struggle against abuses in the church,” the Vatican said.
The Chilean scandal revolves around Father Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing boys. He never faced civilian justice because of a statute of limitations.
Now 87 and living in a nursing home, he has always denied any wrongdoing.
During a visit to Chile this year, Pope Francis appeared to doubt victims who had accused a bishop of witnessing the abuse but doing nothing to stop it.
Shortly afterwards, in a dramatic U-turn, the pope sent the Vatican’s most experienced investigator of sexual abuse to look into the allegations.
On the strength of his report, the pope called Chile’s bishops to the Vatican last week, where he accused them of “grave negligence” in investigating allegations of abuse, and said evidence of sex crimes had been destroyed.
The pope has not yet said if he will accept any or all of the resignations of the 34 bishops — the first time in history that all the senior Roman Catholic prelates from a single country have offered to step aside en masse.
Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Kevin Liffey