All 34 Chilean bishops have reportedly offered to resign on Friday following the recent emergency talks with Pope Francis over their failure to investigate sexual abuse allegations.
According to The Guardian, 31 active and three retired bishops signed a letter of resignation on Friday after the three-day emergency summit in Rome.
In a 10-page letter to the bishops, the pontiff reportedly castigated the bishops for protecting abusive priests in their dioceses. The document, which was leaked to the Chilean media, also accused the church officials of destroying evidence related sex abuse cases committed by priests.
A separate letter released by the Vatican urged the bishops to move in the direction of "a prophetic Church, capable of putting at the center what's important: service to her Lord in the hungry, the imprisoned, the migrant, the abused."
In the resignation letter, the Chilean bishops asked forgiveness from the victims, as well as the pope and the country for "the serious errors and omissions we have committed."
"Thank you to the victims, for their perseverance and their bravery, despite the enormous personal spiritual, social, and family difficulties they've had to face so many times, amidst the incomprehension and the attacks from the ecclesial community itself," the bishops said in the joint statement, according to Church Militant.
The resignation of the bishops appears to stem from the numerous cases against Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation of abusing boys in Santiago in the 1970s and 1980s.
Karadima has been sentenced to a lifetime of "penance and prayer," but has managed to avoid criminal prosecution because the judge had ruled that it had taken too long before his crime had been brought to light.
Bishop Juan Barros, a protege of Karadima, has been accused of covering up the abuses by the senior priest.
Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the abuse victims, has alleged that Barros was present when he was abused by Karadima when he was a boy. The victim contended that Barros had done nothing to stop the abuse.
Barros, who was appointed by Pope Francis as a bishop in 2015, was one of the church officials who signed the resignation letter on Friday, according to France 24.
The pontiff had drawn outrage when he had said that the accusations against Barros amounted to "slander," and insisted that there was "not one single piece of proof" that the bishop covered up for Karadima.
Francis later issued an apology and called for a formal investigation into the scandal. After receiving a report on the findings, the pope admitted in a letter to the bishops that he had committed "serious mistakes" in dealing with the issue.
"I fell into serious errors in the evaluation and perception of the situation, due especially to the lack of true and balanced information," the pope stated, according to France 24.