Pope Francis took another great step forward in his ministry to victims of clergy sexual abuse July 7 when he celebrated a Mass and met with six victims at the Vatican.
Less than 24 hours later, much griping had already begun among some observers about what he didn’t do, what he hasn’t done and what he didn’t say.
But to talk around his words rather than to focus on his words would be a shame, as well as a missed opportunity.
Speaking to victims, Pope Francis offered powerful, heartfelt words in a spirit of mercy and love that reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to reconciliation and future prevention of abuse. Some key quotes:
◗ “I feel the gaze of Jesus, and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons.”
◗ “It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence.”
◗ “Today the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left lifelong scars.”
◗ “Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness. Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.”
◗ “Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.”
◗ “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”
◗ “There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.”
◗ “You and all those who were abused by clergy are loved by God. I pray that the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed by the embrace of the Child Jesus and that the harm which was done to you will give way to renewed faith and joy.”