Participants in Church Sexual Abuse Conference Attend Penitential Liturgy

Vatican Radio
February 8, 2012

[with audio]

From darkness to light. From pain and hurt, to healing and hope. That was the symbolic sense of the penitential liturgy led by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, as a central part of the four day symposium. Appropriately since it is the Jesuit run Gregorian University that has been a driving force behind this conference, the liturgy was held in the great baroque church of St Ignatius, dedicated to the founder of the Society of Jesus. Beneath the masterly ceiling fresco by Andrea del Pozzo, a small procession of bishops, priests, and lay people entered the dark and silent church as images were projected onto a screen beside a simple wooden crucifix. They showed the beauty of God's creation, images of nature and new life, children of different countries and cultures. But then a dramatic change of tone as the slides showed man's destruction of the environment, our greed and violence, racism and conflicts that remind us all of our need for forgiveness.

In his homily Cardinal Ouellet spoke of the scandal and shame of sexual abuse, a crime he said which causes a sense of death for the innocent victims. He spoke too of the sins of church leaders who often knew what their priests were doing but failed to stop the abuse. He said, "Sometimes the violence was committed by deeply disturbed persons, or by those who had themselves been abused. It was necessary to take action concerning them and to prevent them from continuing any form of ministry for which they were obviously not suitable. This was not always done properly, and once again we apologise to the victims."

One by one a representative of seven groups then came forward to ask for forgiveness a teacher, a religious superior, a parent and a lay person, a priest, the Cardinal and finally one of the abuse victims who's been speaking at this conference. Irish survivor Marie Collins acknowledged how hard it is to forgive and asked for God's strength to pardon those who have sinned.

One by one, each speaker lit a candle and placed it at the foot of the cross as the congregration of bishops and religious from Marie's own country and from the Churches around the world prayed together for mercy, for healing, for the hope that the scourge of sexual abuse may never happen again


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