Pope Francis today expressed his solidarity with the priests of Rome during a meeting with them in the Paul VI Hall.
The Holy Father began his discourse by giving his full support to the presbyters, mentioning a series of false accusations that were launched against a group of priests in Rome.
Patrizio Poggi, a former priest who was convicted of abusing children, filed a report with Italian police stating that there was a pedophile ring within the clergy of Rome. The accusation was apparently supported by Msgr. Luca Larusso, a priest who worked in the Vatican’s Diplomatic Corps. Upon further investigation, Italian police discovered that Poggi made false accusations as a way of exacting revenge for not being allowed to serve as a priest again.
“I would like to say publicly that I am close to the clergy, because the accused are not just 7, 8, or 15… It is the whole clergy, in the person of these 7, 8, or 15,” he said.
“I would like to ask for your pardon, not only as your bishop, but as the one in charge of the diplomatic corps, as Pope, because one of the accusers is from the diplomatic corps. This has not been forgotten: the problem will be studied […] It is a grave act of injustice! I ask your pardon for this.” The Holy Father’s remarks were met with an applause by the clergy of Rome.
Dedicating his reflection to the priests on the subject of mercy, the Pope said that mercy was necessary, particularly during the Lenten season. “At the beginning of Lent, it would do us well to reflect together, as priests, on mercy,” he said. “All of us need it. As well as the faithful, because as pastors we should give so much mercy, so much!”
Referring to a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, which was read prior to his address, the Pope stressed the importance of compassion. “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” the Gospel states.
The Pope said that Christ’s ‘interior attitude of compassion’ is the same sense of compassion that priests are called to have with those they encounter in their ministry.
“Now we understand that we are not here just for a nice spiritual exercise at the beginning of Lent, but rather to listen to the voice of the Spirit that speaks to the whole Church in this time, which is precisely the time of mercy,” he said. “Of this I am sure: not only Lent! We are living in a time of mercy, for thirty years or more up to now.” (J.A.E.)