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Pope Francis apologises for demanding proof from victims of abuse allegations

The pontiff continued to defend a Chilean bishop’s handling of a case, saying he was convinced of the cleric’s innocence.

Pope Francis has apologised for insisting victims of paedophile priests show “proof”, saying he realises now it was a “slap in the face” to victims that he never intended.

But he continued to defend Chilean bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of covering up for the country’s most notorious paedophile priest.

He also repeated that anyone who makes such accusations without providing evidence is guilty of slander.

Francis said: “I can’t condemn him because I don’t have evidence. But I’m also convinced that he’s innocent.”

Francis issued the partial mea culpa in an airborne press conference as he returned home from South America, where the scandal plunged the Chilean church into renewed crisis and revived questions about whether Francis “gets it” about abuse.

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