Pope Francis has admitted he made "grave mistakes" in dealing with reports of sexual abuse by clergy members in Chile.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church discussed his concerns in a public letter.
He said he felt, in his words, "pain and shame" in an unusual letter released on Wednesday.
In the letter, he called Chile's church leaders to Vatican City for an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.
Francis also invited abuse victims he had once doubted to come to Rome to seek their forgiveness personally.
He said a lack of truthful and balanced information was the reason that he strongly defended Bishop Juan Barros.
Barros has been linked to a priest accused of abuse, Reverend Fernando Karadima.
During his visit to Chile in January, Francis voiced support for Barros. Victims had accused Barros of witnessing and ignoring their sexual abuse.
In Chile and on his return trip to Rome, Francis accused the victims of calumny, or making false statements in order to hurt someone's image. He also said they should present proof of their claims. He said he had twice rejected Barros's resignation.
I am convinced he is innocent, Francis said at the time.
One of the Vatican's most experienced sexual abuse investigators went to Chile to find out more. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta later presented Francis with a 2,300-page report on the issue.
Francis wrote his letter after receiving the report. The letter does not discuss the future of Barros.
In a statement, three victims said they appreciated Francis's request for forgiveness. They said they were considering his invitation. They also said they would continue fighting for payment and forgiveness until zero tolerance about abuse and cover-up in the church becomes a reality.
I'm Mario Ritter.
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