The pope acknowledged he had "hurt" people by suggesting there was no "proof" against Juan Barros, who is accused of covering up another priest's abuse of boys.
"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak. There is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is slander. Is this clear?" the Argentine pontiff said abruptly on Thursday when questioned by journalists in Chile.
The pope also shocked many by giving Barros a hug during his visit.
"To hear the pope tell them to their faces, 'bring me a letter with the proof', it's a slap and I realise now that my expression was unfortunate," he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Follow NDTV for latest election news and live coverage of assembly elections 2019 in Maharashtra and Haryana.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for latest news and live news updates.