After the uproar caused by his words regarding Chile’s clerical abuse scandals and the role of women in the Church, the newly appointed auxiliary bishop of Santiago apologized for his comments.

“I would like to sincerely ask for forgiveness for the pain and uncertainty my words might have caused,” Bishop-elect Carlos Irarrazaval said May 29.

The Vatican announced a week ago that Pope Francis had appointed him as an auxiliary bishop to Chile’s capital. A day later, Irarrazaval said it’s time to “look towards the future,” implying that the Church needed to put the clerical abuse crisis behind it, using the colloquialism, “stirring reheated rice is worthless.”

Chile is currently ground zero for the worldwide clerical abuse scandal. Santiago’s two living former archbishops have been subpoenaed by the local prosecutors’ office to testify on charges that they covered up cases of the abuse of minors.

But the bishop-elect had more things to say last week: In an interview with CNN Chile, he said that “since there was no woman seated at the table in the Last Supper,” women had no role in the Church. According to Irarrazaval, this was a choice Jesus made, and not “for ideological reasons.”

“Jewish culture is chauvinistic even today,” he’d said a few seconds earlier. “If you see a Jew walking down the street, the woman is 10 steps behind, but Jesus Christ breaks this dynamic; Jesus Christ speaks with women – with the adulterous woman, with the Samaritan woman – Jesus Christ allows for women to care for him. Who did he choose to announce [his] resurrection? Magdalena, a woman.”

In his apology, Irarrazaval said that he understands his comments on women and the “crisis we’re going through” were particularly painful.

“I am committed to working for the communion of the Church, knowing that in synodality we are all builders – women and men – with the richness of our differences, so that the Church becomes more welcoming and inclusive,” he wrote.

Irarrazaval’s public apology came after a private meeting the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Santiago had with the leadership of the local Jewish community to discuss his comments.

In a joint statement, they said that Irarrazaval’s apology had been welcomed with a “fraternal spirit.”

“Both communities share the biblical heritage that details God’s relationship with mankind, and we have expressed our willingness to favor a culture of encounter with the intention and commitment to work together in promoting the ethical and moral values ​​that inspire this heritage, thus seeking a greater awareness of the presence of God in the world and in our society,” the statement reads.

The leaders of both religions also agreed to set up a dialogue aimed at looking into opportunities for collaboration to continue growing in friendship and mutual education about each faith tradition.

“We make our own the words of Pope Francis: Dialogue with others and pray for all; these are our means for love to arise where there is hatred and forgiveness where there is offense, not to tire of imploring and walking paths of peace,” they wrote.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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