Today Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered for their Plenary Assembly in Rome. He greeted the president of the Commission, Boston’s Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, and said to all those present, “I wish to share with you the profound pain I feel in my soul for the situation of abused children, as I have had occasion to do recently several times.”
His remarks were frank and to the point, not mincing words on such a sensitive topic. According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis said, “We are ashamed of the abuses committed by holy ministers, who should be the most trustworthy… Let me say quite clearly that sexual abuse is a horrible sin, completely opposite and in contradiction to what Christ and the Church teach us.”
Pope Francis recalled how he was able to listen to the stories of various victims of sexual abuse and encouraged the Commission to continue listening to the survivors of abuse to help eradicate such a horrendous evil.
He then reiterated the Church’s “zero tolerance” policy and stated, “the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures against all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God.”
Of particular note, Pope Francis encouraged those churches that have instituted a Day of Prayer in response to the situation, and praised new educational initiatives that are being adopted around the world.
Pope Francis ended his address by recalling how the Church is meant to bind wounds of the past and be an agent of healing.
“For all of us, the Catholic Church remains a field hospital that accompanies us on our spiritual journey. It is the place where we can sit with others, listen to them and share with them our struggles and our faith in the good news of Jesus Christ. I am fully confident that the Commission will continue to be a place where we can listen with interest to the voices of the victims and the survivors. Because we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance.”