(ZENIT News / Rome, 03.02.2023).- The Pope Video for March has been published with the prayer intention that the Holy Father is entrusting to the entire Catholic Church through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
This month’s message is dedicated to all the people who have been victims of abuse, “especially to those committed by members of the Church,” that they may “find within the Church herself a concrete response to their pain and suffering.”
For Pope Francis, victims are the ones who should be “at the center of everything”; they are the ones who need “answers; concrete actions to repair the horrors they have suffered and to prevent them from happening again.” “Asking for forgiveness is necessary,” he says at the beginning of the video, “but it is not enough”.
Listen, accompany, protect, repair
The path that the Holy Father proposes for responding to the abuses that have been committed must begin with bringing them “to light in society and in families.” It’s a tragedy that must not be hidden, neither in the Church nor “in clubs, or in other kinds of institutions.”
It is fundamental, Francis goes on to explain, that the Church offer “safe spaces for victims to be heard, supported psychologically, and protected.”
Flowers, light, and live beginning anew
This month, Francis’ concern for victims and his call to bring cases of abuse to light are accompanied by an animated video that the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network has created together with Italian artist Hermes Mangialardo. It’s a story with powerful symbolic content, that plays with the comparison of light and darkness and speaks about the uniqueness of every human life and the profound suffering caused by violence. On the walls of a dark house, in which shadowy curtains impede the entrance of light, there hang pictures – symbolizing how each life is a work of art – which depict flowers, which wither precisely due to the lack of light. The pictures are of various kinds and colors – some detailed, others just sketched out by a child’s hand – hung in various rooms of the house: the children’s bedroom, a corner with sports equipment, the living room, etc. All the rooms, which are very different from each other, share in common the darkness that dominates them until the curtains in the living room are torn, finally allowing the light in. The rays of sunlight not only illuminate the house, but also allow those wounded flowers – which neither the frame nor the glass have managed to protect from the violence that has penetrated deeply into their hearts – to return to life and to begin slowly to lift themselves up again, bearing their wounds with them.
Fr. Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, commented about this intention: “In the Gospel, Jesus, speaking from the depths of his heart, says: ‘If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea’ (Mt 18:6). This reveals Jesus’ suffering in the face of this intolerable crime. It’s difficult to find words in response this aberration. ‘When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”’ (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 319), Pope Francis reminds us in his ‘Letter to the People of God’ (2018). The Pope wants the Catholic Church to pray during the month of March for the victims abuses of power and of conscience, and of sexual abuse, to ‘awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care’ and to fight with determination against every kind and form of abuse. This prayer space can lead us to reflect on the structural and ideological causes that have led to these abuses and to their being made invisible. Prayer opens our hearts, allows us to listen and see, and leads us to act against these crimes that disfigure the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the face of the Church, so we can find, as the Pope’s prayer intention says, concrete responses to the pain and suffering of the victims.”