In an unprecedented move, all Chilean Catholic bishops have offered to resign following the cover up of child sexual abuse in their country.
The 34 Chilean bishops attended a crisis meeting this week with Pope Francis and all have offered to resign.
Following damning revelations over sex abuse by pedophile priests in Chile, 31 active bishops and three more retired, offered to step down on Friday.
The move could result in the first such mass resignation in the history of the Catholic Church.
The Mail Online reports: The bishops also apologised to Chile, the victims of abuse and the pope for the scandal as they released an extraordinary joint statement.
It was not immediately clear if the pope had accepted their resignation.
The bishops announced at the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis that all 31 active bishops and three retired ones in Rome had signed a document offering to resign and putting their fate in the hands of the pope.
Francis can accept the resignations one by one, reject them or delay a decision.
It marked the first known time in history that an entire national bishops conference had offered to resign en masse over scandal, and laid bare the devastation that the abuse crisis has caused the Catholic Church in Chile and beyond.
Calls had mounted for the resignations after details emerged of the contents of a 2,300-page Vatican report into the Chilean scandal leaked early Friday.
Francis had accused the bishops of destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring investigators to minimize abuse accusations and showing ‘grave negligence’ in protecting children from paedophile priests.
In one of the most damning documents from the Vatican on the issue, Francis said the entire Chilean church hierarchy was collectively responsible for ‘grave defects’ in handling cases and the resulting loss of credibility that the Catholic Church has suffered.’
‘No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others,’ Francis wrote in the document, which was published by Chilean T13 television and confirmed as accurate Friday by the Vatican.
In a statement in response, the Chilean bishops said the contents of the document were ‘absolutely deplorable’ and showed an ‘unacceptable abuse of power and conscience,’ as well as sexual abuse.
They asked forgiveness to the victims, the pope and all Catholics and vowed to repair the damage.
Francis summoned the entire bishops’ conference to Rome after admitting that he had made ‘grave errors in judgment’ in the case of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of Chilean priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.
But the scandal grew beyond the Barros case after Francis received the report written by two Vatican sex crimes experts sent to Chile to get a handle on the scope of the problem.
Their report hasn’t been made public, but Francis cited its core findings in the footnotes of the document that he handed over to the bishops at the start of their summit this week.
And those findings are damning.
Francis said the investigation showed there were ‘grave defects’ in the way abuse cases were handled, with superficial investigations or no investigation at all of allegations that contained obvious evidence of crimes.
The result, he said, ‘created a scandal for those who denounced them and all those who know the alleged victims.’