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Letter to the People of God

· The Pope asks forgiveness for crimes committed by consecrated people and clergy and invokes the commitment of the entire Church to uproot the culture of abuse ·

With “shame and repentance”, Pope Francis recognizes the Church’s responsibility and her delays in facing abuses against minors committed by consecrated people and the clergy. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them”, he acknowledged in his “Letter to the People of God”, released on Monday morning, 20 August, in which he asked once more for forgiveness and called for the commitment of the entire ecclesiastical community, to “uproot the culture of abuse”.

It is certainly not the first time that Francis has strongly condemned these crimes and that he has made himself the voice of the victims’ cry of pain. “The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced”, he writes. The recent report from the Grand Jury in Pennsylvania which documents 70 years of cases involving some 300 priests and more than 1,000 minors in six of the state’s eight dioceses, is an opportunity to highlight that “these wounds never disappear and that they require us to forcefully condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death”. But above all, it is a way to remember that no one can avoid taking the responsibility that calls into question the entire community of believers. Because, as Saint Paul wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians, which opens the Pope’s letter, “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). The Holy Father stressed that “the extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way”.

“Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit”, the Pope said, recalling that “everyone of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need”. This requires “a personal and communal conversion” which can only be done through “a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting”. Pope Francis’ invitation aims to awaken “our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says ‘never again’ to every form of abuse”.

“It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People”, the Pope concludes, warning against the temptation to reduce the Church “to small elites”, and reaffirming that “to say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism”.

The Holy Father’s Letter

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Nov. 18, 2018

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