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Pope accepts resignation of 3 Chilean bishops in sex abuse scandal

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Bishop Juan Barros smiles as he leaves the altar after Mass was celebrated by Pope Francis on Lobito Beach in Iquique Chile

Pope Francis on Monday accepted the resignation of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was at the center of Chile's clerical sex abuse scandal, along with two others in a bid to restore the credibility of the Catholic Church in the country amid accusations of multiple cover-ups.

In May, all of Chile's 34 bishops offered to resign over allegations of a cover-up of sexual abuse.

The entire Chilean delegation of bishops tendered its resignation to the pope last month after a series of meetings at the Vatican.

Besides Barros, the pope also agreed to the departures of Cristian Caro Cordero, bishop of Puerto Montt, and Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortazar, bishop of Valparaiso.

The acceptance is part of the Church's ongoing narrative in how it has handled its global clergy sex abuse crisis that in this case brought a popular pontiff face-to-face with involved bishops, protesters, victims as well as destroyed documents on his home continent.

Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of Osorno lay Catholics who fiercely opposed Barros, said Francis' acceptance of the bishop's resignation signalled "the end of the damage" that the pope himself had inflicted on the diocese by appointing Barros in the first place.

In 2011, Fr Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

Barros had always been accused of witnessing and covering up the sexual abuse of minors by a priest who had once mentored him. "Is that clear?" the Pope had said at the time.

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"A new day has begun in Chile's Catholic Church!" tweeted Juan Carlos Cruz, the abuse survivor who had denounced Barros for years and pressed the Vatican to take action.

The pope accepted Barros' resignation despite previous attempts to defend the bishop.

Pope Francis initially backed him, refusing to allow Barros to step down from his post and calling accusations against him "calumny" during a visit to Chile in January.

Several people who claim to have been abused by members of the Jesuit and Marist religious communities in Chile said they have requested time with Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, and Father Jordi Bertomeu, a Spanish official from the Vatican, during their week-long "reparation and reconciliation" mission that started on Tuesday in Santiago.

Last month Francis promised "changes" to the Chilean church to "restore justice" in a short declaration to the bishops that was made public.

It is not yet known how many, if any, more of Chile's bishops will depart from office.

The Catholic Church's upcoming big family rally in Ireland will feature workshops on hot-button issues facing Catholic families, including priestly sexual abuse, weathering divorce and ministering to lesbian and gay faithful.

Francis realized he had misjudged the Chilean situation after meeting with Cruz and reading a 2,300-page report compiled by two leading Vatican investigators about the depth of Chile's scandal.

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