Pope Francis Addresses Sex Abuse of Minors saying "...I would like once more to ask forgiveness of all the victims...never again!
Pope Francis at Vespers in the Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral on July 28, 2022. with Bishops, clergy, religious, and pastoral workers in Canada.
During his homily at the event, the Holy Father highlighted the significance of meeting at the Cathedral of the Church, whose first bishop, St. François de Laval, opened the Seminary in 1663. He pointed out that readings at the vespers speak about elders (presbyters), noting that St. Peter urged them to tend the flock of God willingly, and so, the Church’s pastors are invited “to show that same generosity in tending the flock, in order to manifest Jesus’ concern for everyone and his compassion for the wounds of each.” Manifesting “with devotion and tender love,” guiding it and not allowing it to go astray, because “we are a sign of Christ.” Pastors should do this willingly, not as a duty, but “zealously and with the heart of a shepherd.”
“Christian joy is about the experience of a peace that remains in our hearts, even when we are pelted by trials and afflictions,” the Pope said, “for then we know that we are not alone, but accompanied by a God who is not indifferent to our lot.” He explained that this is not a “cheap joy” like the world sometimes proposes. “It is a free gift, the certainty of knowing that we are loved, sustained and embraced by Christ in every situation in life.”
“So, let us ask ourselves a question: How are we doing when it comes to joy? Does our Church express the joy of the Gospel? Is there a faith in our communities that can attract by the joy it communicates?”
The Pope pointed at secularization as one of the factors that “threatens the joy of faith and thus risks diminishing it and compromising our lives as Christians.”
“God seems to have disappeared from the horizon, and his word no longer seems a compass guiding our lives, our basic decisions, our human and social relationships,” the Pope said. Pope Francis cautions against falling “prey to pessimism or resentment, passing immediately to negative judgments or a vain nostalgia.” He, rather elaborates two possible views of the world: the “negative view” and the “discerning view.” The first view – the negative – is “often born of a faith that feels under attack and thinks of it as a kind of “armour”, defending us against the world,” the Pope said, adding that this view complains that “the world is evil, sin reigns” and risks clothing itself in a “crusading spirit.” The Pope warns against this, as it is “not Christian” and “not the way of God.” God blesses our life and makes himself incarnate in historical situations to “give growth to the seed of the Kingdom in those places where darkness seems to triumph.” We are called “to have a view similar to that of God, who discerns what is good and persistently seeks it, sees it and nurtures it. This is no naïve view, but a view that discerns reality,” Pope Francis insists.
As Church and as shepherds of God’s People and pastoral workers, therefore, the Pope says it is up to us to “make these distinctions” and “make this discernment”, adding that if we yield to the negative view, we risk sending the wrong message – as though the criticism of secularization masks “the nostalgia for a sacralized world, a bygone society in which the Church and her ministers had greater power and social relevance.” “God does not want us to be slaves, but sons and daughters; he does not want to make decisions for us, or oppress us with a sacral power, exercised in a world governed by religious laws. No! He created us to be free, and he asks us to be mature and responsible persons in life and in society.” Secularization, continued the Pope, “demands that we reflect on the changes in society that have influenced the way in which people think about and organize their lives” – not the diminished social relevance of the Church. Consequently, “secularization represents a challenge for our pastoral imagination,” and “an occasion for restructuring the spiritual life in new forms and for new ways of existing.”
A discerning view “motivates us to develop a new passion for evangelization, to look for new languages and forms of expression, to change certain pastoral priorities and to focus on the essentials.” Communicating the Gospel today, is a proclamation of “a witness abounding with gratuitous love” that should take shape in “in a personal and ecclesial lifestyle that can rekindle a desire for the Lord, instil hope and radiate trust and credibility.”
He outlined three challenges that can shape prayer and pastoral service, the Pope said that the first is “to make Jesus known,” and return to the initial proclamation. He added we must find new ways to proclaim the Gospel to those who have not yet encountered Christ and this calls “for a pastoral creativity capable of reaching people where they are living, finding opportunities for listening, dialogue and encounter.”
The second challenge -witness- said the Pope, requires us to be credible, as the Gospel is preached effectively “when life itself speaks and reveals the freedom that sets others free, the compassion that asks for nothing in return, the mercy that silently speaks of Christ.”
The Holy Father also said "I think in particular of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, scandals that require firm action and an irreversible commitment..." “Together with you, I would like once more to ask forgiveness of all the victims. The pain and the shame we feel must become an occasion for conversion: never again! … never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others.” To defeat the culture of exclusion, Pope Francis advocates that bishops and priests start from themselves and should not feel themselves superior to our brothers and sisters. Likewise, pastoral workers should “understand service as power.” Fraternity, the third challenge, means the Church will be “a credible witness to the Gospel the more its members embody communion, creating opportunities and situations that enable all those who approach the faith to encounter a welcoming community one capable of listening, entering into dialogue and promoting quality relationships.” “The Church is called to embody this love without borders, in order to realize the dream that God has for humanity: for us to be brothers and sisters all.”
Source: Vatican News excerpts and Reuters