Chile's bishops offer to resign over sex abuse scandal

Members of Chile's bishops conference Luis Fernando Ramos Perez, right, and Juan Ignacio Gonzalez, meet journalists at the Vatican. AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

All of Chile's bishops have offered to resign over a sex abuse and cover-up scandal, in what is one of the biggest shake-ups in the Catholic Church's long-running abuse saga.

At the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis, 31 active bishops said they had signed a document offering to resign and that they were putting their fate in the hands of the Pope.

It is the first time an entire bishops conference has offered to step down en masse over a scandal, and lays bare the devastation the case has caused to the Catholic Church in Chile and beyond.

Francis had earlier accused Chile's bishops of destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring church lawyers to minimise accusations and of "grave negligence" in protecting children from paedophile priests.

In a devastating 10-page document delivered to the bishops during a summit this week, Francis said the entire Chilean church hierarchy was collectively responsible for "grave defects" in handling abuse cases and the resulting loss of credibility for the Catholic Church.

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