WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops are expressing gratitude toward Benedict XVI for his response to cases of sexual abuse of minors, and prayers for those who have been victimized in the past.
In a statement publicized today, the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed “profound gratitude for the assistance that Pope Benedict XVI has given us in our efforts to respond to victims, deal with perpetrators and to create safe environments for children.”
The statement, signed by the conference’s Executive Committee on behalf of all the members, affirmed the “deep concern” of the prelates “for those harmed by the crime and sin of sexual abuse by clergy.”
“We know from our experience how Pope Benedict is deeply concerned for those who have been harmed by sexual abuse and how he has strengthened the Church’s response to victims and supported our efforts to deal with perpetrators,” the committee stated.
It recalled the Pontiff’s 2008 visit to the United States, when he met privately with victims and “heard firsthand how sexual abuse has devastated lives.”
“The Holy Father spoke with each person and provided every one time to speak freely to him,” the bishops recalled. “They shared their painful experiences and he listened, often clasping their hands and responding tenderly and reassuringly.”
“With the support of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, we bishops have made a vigorous commitment to do everything in our power to prevent abuse from happening to children,” they said.
The conference underlined its commitment to adhere to the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which “calls us to respond with compassion to victims/survivors, to work diligently to screen those working with children and young people in the Church, to provide child abuse awareness and prevention education, to report suspected abuse to civil law enforcement, and to account for our efforts to protect children and youth through an external annual national audit.”
The statement noted: “The recent emergence of more reports of sexual abuse by clergy saddens and angers the Church and causes us shame.
“If there is anywhere that children should be safe, it should be in their homes and in the Church.”
The committee concluded, “As we accompany Christ in his passion and death during this Holy Week, we stand with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in prayer for the victims of sexual abuse, for the entire Church and for the world.”
Members of the executive committee include: Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president; Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, vice-president; Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, treasurer; Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, secretary; and Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, elected member.
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