Pope Francis apologizes for church scandals

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– Pope Francis made amends Wednesday for the scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years, but did not explain what he was referring to.

“I would like, in the name of the Church, ask for your forgiveness for the scandals that in recent times have happened both in Rome and in the Vatican,” Francis said in his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi refused to elaborate on the pontiff’s remarks. “If he makes a general observation, it is not my duty to restrict or expand what he wanted to say,” Lombardi told reporters.

The pope was elected in March 2013 with a mandate to reform the Vatican’s bureaucracy, the Curia, in the wake of the VatiLeaks affair, which exposed alleged cronyism, graft and infighting within the Vatican hierarchy.

In his pontificate, he has also had to deal with the problem of paedophile priests and with the Vatican’s in-house bank, the Institute of Religious Works, long suspected as serving as a haven for money launderers and mafia-linked criminals.

Francis spoke about scandals as the Synod of Bishops, an October 4-25 Catholic summit on family issues, reached its halfway mark. Participants remain split on how the church should treat issues like divorce, homosexuality and cohabitation out of wedlock.

Discussions should be summed up in a final document, but top conservative cardinals wrote to the pope complaining that the drafting process was biased towards progressives, according to a leaked letter published Monday by Italian weekly l’Espresso.

British Cardinal Vincent Nichols – who is seen as a centrist – played down the significance of the letter, but said there were growing calls for the pope to settle the debate, once the synod is over, with the issuance of an official document.

“[The synod process] will need bringing to a conclusion and there is only one person who can do that,” Nichols said.

During Wednesday’s audience, Francis also greeted a delegation of more than 30 Chilean miners, who five years ago were trapped underground for 70 days.

“I think each one of you would be capable of coming here, and telling us what the meaning of hope is. Thank you for keeping faith in God,” the pope told them.

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