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Pope on French abuse report: ‘This is a moment of shame’

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 10/06/21

Francis joins with 4 French bishops for moment of silent prayer before general audience.

On October 5, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) in France published its findings: an estimated 216,000 minors have been victims of sexual abuse by clerics and religious in the Church since 1950 in France. And the number of victims rises to 330,000 when including abusers among the laity engaged in ecclesial missions.

A message from the Vatican’s press office a few hours later reported that the Holy Father had received news of the report with sorrow, and that his thoughts were mainly with the victims. The report is some 500 pages, with 2,000 pages of appendices.

The Holy Father was informed of the release of the CIASE report during his meetings in recent days with the French bishops visiting ad limina,” the press release explained. “His thoughts are primarily with the victims, with immense sorrow for their injuries and gratitude for their courage to speak out.”

On October 6, before the general audience, the Pope gathered with four French bishops to pray in silence.

The four are in Rome as part of a pilgrimage and had already planned to attend today’s audience.

Informed of their presence, Pope Francis invited them to pray with him just before he entered Paul VI hall to pronounce his catechesis. “The Pope first told us that he would say a word about the report during the appeals at the end of catechesis,” Bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard told I.Media.

“Then the Pope, his face marked with sorrow, invited us to pray together in silence for the victims. Compassion and silence, those were the only two words of the Pope,” added the auxiliary bishop of Lyon.

I pray, and let us all pray

The Holy Father said this at the end of the audience:

Yesterday, the Episcopal Conference and the Conferences of men and women religious in France received the Independent Commission’s report regarding sexual abuse in the Church which was commissioned to evaluate the extent of the phenomenon of sexual aggression and violence committed against minors since 1950 to the present. Unfortunately, a considerable number was revealed.

To the victims I wish to express my sadness and my pain for the traumas they have endured and my shame, our shame, my shame that for so long the Church has been incapable of putting this at the center of its concerns, assuring them of my prayers. I pray, and let us all pray together: “To God the glory, to us the shame”: this is a moment of shame.

I encourage the bishops and you, dear brothers who have come here to share this moment, I encourage the bishops and religious superiors to continue to do everything possible so that similar tragedies might not be repeated. I express my closeness and fatherly support to the priests in France in the face of this trial which is difficult but beneficial, and I invite the Catholics in France to assume their responsibility to guarantee that the Church might be a safe home for everyone. Thank you.

AbusePope Francis
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