"I cannot begin to express the pain and shame that I feel over the irreparable harm caused to children on the part of Church ministers," the Pope said.
PIC: Pope Francis addresses political authorities as Chile's President Michelle Bachelet (R) listens, at La Moneda Presidential Palace in Santiago on January 16, 2018. (AFP)
CHILE - Pope Francis on Tuesday expressed his "pain" and "shame" over child sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Church in Chile, as he made his first speech during a visit to the South American country.
"I cannot begin to express the pain and shame that I feel over the irreparable harm caused to children on the part of Church ministers," he said.
"We have to work hard to make sure this does not happen again," he added.
The US-based NGO Bishop Accountability last week said ahead of the visit that almost 80 Roman Catholic clergy members had been accused of sexually abusing children in Chile since 2000.
Activists from several countries meeting in Santiago on Monday launched a new global organization, Ending Clerical Abuse (ECA). The organization "seeks to stop child sexual abuse by the clergy," said one of its founders, Jose Andres Murillo.
Francis, who arrived in Chile on Monday, also called for respect of the rights and culture of indigenous peoples.
It is necessary to listen to native peoples, "often forgotten and whose rights and protected culture must be taken into account," said the pontiff in his address to political authorities.
He made no specific mention of the Mapuche, with whom he is scheduled to meet Wednesday during a visit to Temuco.