Cardinal Turkson: Joy Does Not Take Away From Solemnity of Forgiveness

Ghanaian Prelate Leads Congress in Liturgy of Reconciliation

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By Junno Arocho

DUBLIN, Ireland, JUNE 14, 2012 ( Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, participated in a Liturgy of Reconciliation at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Dublin today. Building upon the day’s theme, Exploring the Challenge of Restoring Communion through Justice and Reconciliation, the cardinal began his homily reading a letter from Sister Genevieve, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. 

The nun recounted the trauma and hatred she harbored after her family was murdered in their church. The letter went on to describe a life-changing event when to the nun’s surprise, as she was visiting a prison, her family’s murderer fell on his knees in front of her and begged her forgiveness.

“A feeling of pity and compassion invaded me. I lifted him to his feet, embraced him in tears and said to him: ‘You are my brother and always will be,’” the letter stated. “Then I felt a huge weight lift off of me and, in its place, flowing inner peace. I thanked the man I was embracing. To my great surprise, he cried out: ‘Justice can do its work and condemn me to death, for now I am free!’”

Cardinal Turkson then reminded the participants of St. Paul’s exhortation, “Rejoice! Be perfect. Admonish or encourage one another. Have the same mind and attitude. Live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

The former archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, went on to reflect on the five aspects of the exhortation, inviting all those present to rejoice. “Wake up that joy inside ourselves! Such joy does not take away from the sober solemnity of this celebration. Not at all! Paul knew how to rejoice even in the most difficult situations because of his firm belief in the presence of the Lord,” he said.

Forgiveness and reconciliation has been a recurring theme throughout this congress, given the current situation regarding child abuse within the Catholic Church in Ireland. At the Pope’s request, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, papal legate to the IEC, met with a representative group of survivors of child abuse, comprised of victims of clerical and institutional abuse within the Church.

Cardinal Turkson continued his homily, calling on all to examine themselves and seek reconciliation with God. “What are my defects, mistakes, sins or weaknesses? What are the attitudes, habits or tendencies which wound our Church, compromise our credibility, reduce our effectiveness and leave us so low? We need to bring all these to Christ for forgiveness and healing. Then we can be restored as redeemed and therefore trustworthy servants of God’s household, as we read in Hebrews, and even more as adopted children because brothers and sisters of Christ, God’s Son,” he said.

The cardinal concluded by inviting all to follow the example of Sister Geneviève’s story of forgiveness and to embrace St. Paul’s five-fold exhortation. “After hearing Sister Geneviève’s story, if we still dare to affirm God’s nearness as the source of our rejoicing, then at the end, we can confidently invoke His abiding love and reconciling peace,” he said.

“May God’s abiding love and reconciling peace be on everyone who has sinned, and on everyone who has been sinned against, on those who have forgiven and on those still struggling to do so.”

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