On the first day of his papal visit to Chile, Pope Francis told authorities, civil society and diplomats assembled at La Moneda Palace: "I cannot help but express the pain and shame, shame that I feel over the irreparable harm caused to children by church ministers."
Pope Francis' tour has been protested by critics of the numerous abuse scandals which have rocked the Catholic Church, as well as campaigners highlighting economic and territorial issues in the predominantly atheistic nation.
A public mass at O'Higgins Park was attented by at least 400,000 people while a demonstration was staged nearby. About 50 people were arrested by police, who used water cannons to stop the protest.
The pontiff also visited a women's detention center, delivering messages of redemption and dignity to the 620 female inmates at San Joaquin Women's Penitentiary Center.
The meeting took place in the prison's gym, where one of the convicts described how she became incarcerated and how her life as a mother had developed inside the detention center.
Pope Francis asked the women to resist being objectified and to preserve their human rights, saying that being deprived of liberty does not mean they can be deprived of dignity.
"We might make a mistake, but each day we're invited to start again somehow," Francis said before quoting the Bible: "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone."
Pope Francis also encouraged the inmates to keep "social reintegration" as their goal.