VATICAN CITY • Pope Francis has acknowledged that he had made "grave mistakes" in the handling of a sexual abuse crisis in Chile, and would invite victims he had once doubted to Rome to seek their forgiveness personally.
"I have made grave mistakes in the assessment and my perception of the situation, due in particular to a lack of truthful and balanced information," he wrote in an extraordinary letter to Chilean bishops on Wednesday.
The letter followed a visit to Chile by one of the Vatican's most experienced sexual abuse investigators, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.
Archbishop Scicluna investigated claims surrounding Bishop Juan Barros, who was appointed by the Pope in 2015 despite accusations that Barros had covered up sexual abuse of minors by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima.
In his missive, the Pope summoned the Chilean bishops to Rome for a meeting but did not say when it would take place.
Such gatherings are rare and usually take place in a period of crisis in a national Church. A similar meeting took place in Rome with American bishops in 2002 during the papacy of Pope John Paul after a sexual abuse crisis exploded in the United States.
In the three-page letter in Spanish, issued simultaneously at the Vatican and in Chile, the head of the Roman Catholic Church said he wanted to "re-establish trust in the Church, trust that was broken by our errors and sins". Reading Archbishop Scicluna's report caused him "pain and shame", he added.
Controversy over Barros dominated a recent trip the pontiff made to South America. Critics accused the Pope of not understanding the depth of the crisis after he initially defended Barros and said he was the victim of slander.