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The Holy Father’s Letter
To the Lord Bishops of Chile
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate:
The reception during the past week of the last documents that complete the Report, which my two special envoys to Chile handed me on March 20, 2018, with a total of over 2,300 folios, moves me to write you this letter. I assure you of my prayer and I want to share with you the conviction that the present difficulties are also an occasion to restore trust in the Church, trust broken by our errors and sins, and to heal wounds that continue to bleed in the whole of Chilean society.
Without faith and without prayer, fraternity is impossible. Therefore, on this 2nd Sunday of Easter, on the Day of Mercy, I offer you this reflection with the hope that each one of you will accompany me in the interior itinerary I have undertaken in the last weeks, so that it is the Spirit who guides us with his gift and not our interests or, worst still, our wounded pride.
Sometimes, when such evils groove our soul and cast us weak to the world, frightened and shielding ourselves in our comfortable “winter palaces,” God’s love comes to encounter us and purifies our intentions to love as free, mature and critical men. When the means of communication shame us, presenting a Church almost always in new moon, deprived of the light of the Sun of justice (St. Ambrose, Hexameron IV, 8, 32) and we have the temptation to doubt the paschal victory of the Risen One, I believe that, as Saint Thomas, we must not fear doubt (John 20:25), but fear the pretension of wanting to see without relying on the testimony of those that heard from the Lord’s lips the most beautiful promise (Matthew 28:20).
Today I want to speak to you, not of assurances, but of the only thing that the Lord offers us to experience each day: the joy, the peace, the forgiveness of our sins and the action of His grace.
In this connection, I wish to express my gratitude to H.E. Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta, and to The Reverend Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for his great work of serene and empathic listening of the 64 testimonies that they gathered recently, both in New York as well as in Santiago de Chile. I sent them to listen from the heart and with humility. Subsequently, when they handed me the Report and, in particular, their juridical and pastoral assessment of the information collected, they acknowledged before me their having felt overwhelmed by the pain of so many victims of grave abuses of conscience and of power and, in particular, the sexual abuses committed by consecrated persons in your country against minors of age, those who were denied at the wrong time and were also robbed of their innocence.
As Pastors we must express the same most profound and cordial gratitude to those that with honesty, courage and sense of Church, requested a meeting with my envoys and showed them the wounds of their soul. Monsignor Scicluna and The Reverend Bertomeu have described to me how some Bishops, priests, deacons, lay men and women of Santiago and Osorno went to the Holy Name parish of New York or to the headquarters of Sotero Sanz, in Providencia, with a maturity, respect and affability that was moving.
On the other hand, the subsequent days to this special mission have been witnesses of another meritorious event, which we should keep very present for other occasions, as not only the atmosphere of confidentiality has been maintained, which was achieved during the Visit, but that at no time was there any yielding to the temptation to convert this delicate mission into a media circus. In this regard, I want to thank the different organizations and means of communication for their professionalism in treating this very delicate case, respecting the right of the citizens to the information and the good reputation of the respondents.
Now, after a reflective reading of the minutes of this “special mission,” I believe I can affirm that all the testimonies gathered in them speak in an objective way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and I confess to you that it causes me pain and shame.
Taking all this into account, I write to you, gathered in the 115th Plenary Assembly, to humbly request Your collaboration and assistance in the discernment of the measures that in the short, medium and long term must be adopted to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the objective of repairing the scandal in so far as possible and of re-establishing justice.
I will convoke you to Rome to discuss the conclusions of the mentioned visit and my conclusions. I have thought of this meeting as a fraternal moment, without prejudices or pre-conceived ideas, with the sole objective of having the truth in our lives shine. In regard to the date, I entrust to the Secretary of the Episcopal Conference to inform me on the possibilities.
In what regards me, I acknowledge, and want you to transmit it faithfully, that I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially because of a lack of truthful and balanced information. From now on I ask forgiveness from all those I offended and I hope to do so personally in the coming weeks, in the meetings I will have with representatives of the persons interviewed.
“Abide in Me” (John 15:4): these words of the Lord resound again and again in these days. They speak of personal relations, of communion, of fraternity that attracts and convokes. United to Christ as the branches of the vine, I invite you to graft, in your prayer of the coming days, a magnanimity that will prepare us for the mentioned meeting and that later will enable us to translate into concrete deeds what we will have reflected. Perhaps it would also be opportune to put the Church of Chile in a state of prayer. Now more than ever we cannot fall again into the temptation of verbosity or to remain in the “universals.” These days, let us look at Christ. Let us look at His life and His gestures, especially when He is compassionate and merciful with those that have erred. Let us love the truth, let us pray for wisdom of heart and allow ourselves to be converted.
While awaiting your news and entreating H.E. Santiago Silva Retamales, President of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, to publish this letter with the greatest speed possible, I impart to you my blessing and ask you, please, to not fail to pray for me.
Vatican, April 8, 2018
[Original text: Spanish] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]