Pope Francis waves to the public upon his arrival to the Nunciature in Lima, Peru
 Jan. 19 (UPI) — Pope Francis incited anger in Chile after accusing sexual abuse victims of slandering a bishop as he continued his visit to several South America countries.

Francis said there was no evidence against Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who accusers say protected pedophile priest Rev. Fernando Karadima and was therefore complicit in his crimes.

“The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk,” Francis said outside the northern Chilean city of Iquique. “But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?”

Karadima, the former head of the El Bosque parish in Santiago, was sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer for his abuse of young boys.

Francis drew criticism for his remarks, with a prominent Barros accuser, James Hamilton, saying the comments revealed an “unknown face” of the Pope.

“What the Pope has done today is offensive and painful, and not only against us, but against everyone seeking to end the abuses,” Hamilton said.

Juan Carlos Cruz, another Barros accuser, said the pontiff’s “plea for forgiveness is empty.”

“As if I could have taken a selfie or photo while Karadima abused me and others with Juan Barros standing next to him watching everything,” Cruz said.

“Pope Francis’ attack on the Karadima victims is a stunning setback,” Anne Barrett Doyle, a co-director of BishopAccountability.org, said. “He has just turned back the clock to the darkest days of this crisis. Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be believed?”

The statements come as the Pope continues his trip in South America, visiting Chile and Peru.

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