Pope Francis apologised on behalf of the Church to victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy during Mass held at the Vatican last Monday.
The mass was attended by some of the victims of sexual abuse, as well as families and members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The Pope later met 6 of the abuse victims for discussions and sharing.
During the Mass, the Holy Father bemoaned the betrayed trust by members of the clergy, as well as the silence of the church when all these violations were taking place.
He also prayed for grace to be able to work tirelessly and make sure the Church does not in any way again shield and protect people who commit the despicable crimes, because “for some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering.
Pope Francis said “..As I look at you, and think of so many men and women, boys and girls…I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons. Today, I am very grateful to you for having travelled so far to come here.
“And those few who began to weep have touched our conscience for this crime and grave sin. This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation. It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence. They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created,” he said.
He added: “I know that these wounds are a source of deep and often unrelenting emotional and spiritual pain, and even despair. Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction. Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children. Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships.
“Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide. The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church. To these families I express my heartfelt love and sorrow.”
“Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God. Some of you have held fast to faith, while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God. Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness. Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.
“Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.
“I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.
“On the other hand, the courage that you and others have shown by speaking up, by telling the truth, was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the Church. There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable,” the pope said.
The Pope also challenged the church to exercise vigilance in priestly formation and to make sure that all minors, whatever religion they belong to, are not exposed to abuse. He said there is need for “better policies and procedures in the universal Church for the protection of minors and for the training of church personnel in implementing those policies and procedures.”.