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Pope says in 'pain and shame' over church sex scandal in Chile

Pope Francis gives an open-air mass at O'Higgins Park in Santiago, Chile, January 16, 2018. (AFP photo)

Pope Francis has finally said he deeply regrets Chilean priests’ involvement in a series of sex crimes against children.

Upon the start of his visit to Santiago, the capital of Chile, on Tuesday, the pontiff said he felt he was “bound to express my pain and shame,” some seven years after reports emerged that some Chilean pastors had committed sexual abuse against children in their care.

“I am one with my brother bishops, for it is right to ask forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again,” said Francis in his address to Chilean lawmakers, judges and other authorities at La Moneda palace.

The top Vatican authority, the first Latin American pope in history, arrived in Chile late on Monday. He held his first public Mass to the cheers and jubilation of tens of thousands of well-wishers.

Riot police officers struggle with a protester during a demonstration against the visit of Pope Francis to Chile, in the surroundings of O'Higgins Park in Santiago on January 16, 2018. (AFP photo)

However, the trip has been marred by the famous sex scandal, which first emerged in 2010, and also deep-rooted anger among the Chileans for Francis’ appointment of pontiffs that had been connected to the scandal.

At least nine churches have been set ablaze or firebombed in the past few days while protests have been planned for Tuesday and Wednesday by those opposed to Juan Barros, the bishop of the southern city of Osorno, whom many accuse of being very close to Chile's most notorious pedophile priest, Reverend Fernando Karadima, who was sacked in 2011 by the Vatican.

Despite condemning the sex abuses against Chilean children, there was no planned meeting for Francis with the survivors, reports said.

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