Pope Francis: We Must Rid Church of the Scourge of Child Abuse

Tells Episcopal Conferences, Religious Superiors that They Must Cooperate with New Commission

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In a letter addressed to Episcopal Conferences, Religious Superiors and Societies of Apostolic Life around the world, Pope Francis said that Bishops and Major Superiors have a responsibility to assure the safety of minors in parishes and Church institutions.

The Holy Father detailed the establishment of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he said was «for the purpose of offering proposals and initiatives» to improve procedures for protecting minors and vulnerable adults.

He also recalled his meeting in July 2014 with several victims of sexual abuse by the clergy.

«This experience reaffirmed my conviction that everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused,» he wrote.

The Pope expressed his belief that the Commission will encourage the commitment of the Church «at every level» to ensure the safety of children and «respond to their needs with fairness and mercy.»

«Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children,» he stressed. «They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home. Consequently, priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors.»

The 78 year old Pontiff also told the Episcopal Conferences that they abide by the provisions set forth by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in May 2011. The letter served as an assistance for dioceses to develop adequate guidelines for handling cases of abuse. He also  stated that the Conferences must review their procedures periodically to ensure they are being observed.

«It is the responsibility of Diocesan Bishops and Major Superiors to ascertain that the safety of minors and vulnerable adults is assured in parishes and other Church institutions,» he wrote.  

«As an expression of the Church’s duty to express the compassion of Jesus towards those who have suffered abuse and towards their families, the various Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are urged to identify programs for pastoral care which include provisions for psychological assistance and spiritual care.»

The Pope also said that pastors and leaders of religious communities must be available to meet with victims in order to listen to them and to ask for their forgiveness.

Concluding his letter, Pope Francis asked the Episcopal Conferences and Religious Superiors for their complete cooperation with the new Pontifical Commission to develop «adequate responses to sexual abuse.»

«May Mary Most Holy, Mother of tenderness and mercy, help us to carry out, generously and thoroughly, our duty to humbly acknowledge and repair past injustices and to remain ever faithful in the work of protecting those closest to the heart of Jesus,» he concluded.

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On ZENIT’s website:

For the full text of the Pope’s letter, go to:

http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-letter-on-the-pontifical-commission-for-the-protection-of-minors

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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