Pope starts purge in church over sex-abuse scandal

Pope Francis attends a meeting with faithful of the diocese of Rome at Saint John Lateran Basilica in Rome

Pope Francis attends a meeting with faithful of the diocese of Rome at Saint John Lateran Basilica in Rome

An entire delegation of bishops deciding to resign is nearly unheard of in church history, Al Jazeera reported.

The mass resignation of bishops is nearly unheard of, having last happened two centuries ago.

One of the victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, told Chilean radio that by accepting the resignations, Pope Francis had "sent a message to the world that this culture of abuse and cover-up won't be tolerated any longer".

The scandal is the latest to rock the Roman Catholic Church, and Argentine-born Francis said it must not happen again on his watch.

A Vatican investigation earlier this year was said to show that documents related to such crimes were destroyed and actions not taken to protect vulnerable children.

"The band of delinquent bishops ... begins to disintegrate today".

He also chose to host three Chilean sex abuse survivors at his home in the Vatican so he could apologise to them personally and hear their recommendations for change.

Both men are 75, the age when such resignations are required to be submitted to the pope.

Pope Francis has apologised to the victims and admitted he had made "grave mistakes" after reading a 2,300-page report on abuses in Chile.

Barros submitted his resignation to Pope Francis alongside every other active bishop in Chile at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pope and Chilean prelates, during which Francis chastised the bishops for systematic cover-up of abuse throughout the country. The second group comprises five Chilean priests who met Francis at the start of June.

During his weeklong trip through Chile and Peru in January, Francis opened with a somber apology for sexual abuse by priests.

Barros, who is a central figure in the controversy, has been accused of covering up abuse committed by another priest in the 80s and 90s.

In a letter released on April 11, Pope Francis said he had been mistaken in his assessment of the situation in Chile, and he begged for forgiveness from survivors and others he offended.

"I can not help but express the pain and shame, shame that I feel over the irreparable harm caused to children by church ministers", Francis said at La Moneda government palace in Santiago.

Abuse survivors have alleged that when Bishop Barros was still a priest he witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima.

After that episode, Francis appointed Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta to investigate the allegations of abuse in the Chilean church.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, president of the World Meeting of Families 2018, said Father Martin's book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, had the support of three US cardinals, including Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.