(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 25.09.2023).- The only private audience the Holy Father granted to a group on Monday morning, September 25, was to the Latin American Council of the Center of Investigation and Formation for the Protection of Minors (CEPROME). It is a team of professionals of different disciplines and different countries of Latin America, who want the Church to be increasingly a safe place for all, especially for boys and girls, adolescents and vulnerable adults.
Here are the Holy Father’s words.
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I’m happy to receive you in the coincidence of your having met in Rome from various points of Latin America. Moreover, it’s curious that this meeting is on September 25, date in which, by an ancient tradition, the memory of a child-martyr is celebrated in a small shrine of Spain. Regardless of the event in question, what is interesting in history is that the tragedy of that child was identified with that of Jesus Himself, and in its representations [the child] appears dressed as the Lord, already walking to Calvary, already suffering His same Passion.
This event which might seem anecdotic has brought to my mind the evangelical account of the Last Judgment in which we hear the perturbing words of the great King: “I assure you that every time you did it to the littlest of my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). How the world would change if we were convinced interiorly that each one of the little ones that we meet are a reflection of God’s face. If we saw in the suffering of every child, of every vulnerable person, the trace imprinted on the veil with which Veronica dried Christ’s face.
You, I know well, try to work and apply ever more appropriate methods to eradicate the scourge of abuses, both in the Church as well as in the world. And we must not forget this: the abuses that have affected the Church are no more than a pale reflection of the sad reality that encompasses the whole of humanity, and to which the necessary attention isn’t given. Someone might say: “Ah, there aren’t so many, then.” If it were only one, it would already be scandalous, just one, and there are more than one.
I believe I can say that the Church has advanced quite a bit on this path, and will not cease to do so, and that thanks to prophet pastors, of going forward, without being careful of the money, but rather of the people and the wounded kids. And that’s why I want to thank you publicly, Eminence, for what you have done. I believe I can say the Church has advanced quite a bit in this, and will not cease to do so. It’s also necessary that this be a significant work for society, so that the steps and the victories of the Church in this path can be a spur so other institutions will promote this culture of care.
In addition to this, from this image, which identifies each one of the little ones with Christ Himself, may our effort not be a mere implementation of protocols, but that we entrust them to Jesus in prayer.With humility and truth, let us be able to recognize ourselves among those “little ones.” And, placed before the Redeemer, let us also contemplate in the outraged face the suffering we have received and caused, so as not to feel distant from the people we receive, but brothers, also in sorrow. Let us dialogue with Jesus, let us listen to that Word that forgives us, that heals us, that redeems us — all of us. He didn’t take on the sin of the world to condemn it, but to save it, and He taught us that there is no greater love than that which gives life, that which leaves a trace of His Holy Face.
Let us love one another — Jesus says to us — as we love ourselves, namely, conscious of our wounds, of our littleness, of our need for forgiveness and consolation. And let us pray — with the confidence that Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus teaches us, in these days prior to her feast –, for the most unhappy and desperate sinners, for their conversion, so that they can see in the other, the eyes of Jesus that question them. I don’t want to pass, without attention to a problem, which is very serious in regard to abuses, the filming of child pornography, which sadly by paying a small fee, you can already have on your phone. Where is this child pornography done? In what country is it done? No one knows, but it’s criminality put at the service of each one through their phones. Please, let’s talk about this as well, because these children that are filmed, are victims, sophisticated victims of this consumer society. Don’t forget this point, which worries me a lot.
May God bless you, may the Virgin look after you, and keep fighting like this, keep doing so. Thank you.