Pope Francis Pope Francis 

Pope: Misguided concern for Church reputation should not sideline abuse victims' welfare

In a video message to a 3-day conference in Warsaw, Poland, on safeguarding children from abuse in the Church, Pope Francis hopes such efforts will bring about real and reliable change.

By Vatican News staff reporter

As an important international conference on the protection of vulnerable children and adults for the Churches of Central and Eastern Europe kicks off in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on Sunday, Pope Francis hopes the effort will bring about real and reliable change in the Church and in the hearts of Christians.  

Organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Polish Bishops' Conference, the September 19 to 22 conference has as its theme, “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children”. Representatives of bishops’ conferences, religious orders and lay professionals from 20 countries are participating in the 3-day event. 

Real and reliable change

Pope Francis has sent a video message in which he greets the participants as they start reflecting on the response that the Church is providing to the crisis of the sexual abuse of minors by members of the Church, and on the ways in which it might more adequately respond to this serious issue that the Church is facing.

He recalls addressing leaders of the bishops’ conferences from around the world in Rome in February 2019, in which he encouraged them to ensure that the wellbeing of victims is not sidelined in favour of the misguided concern for the reputation of the institutional Church. “Rather, only by facing the truth of these evil practices and of humbly seeking pardon from victims and survivors will the Church find its way to a place where it can be relied upon once again as a place of welcome and safety for those in need.” The Holy Father says that our expressions of sorrow must be converted into concrete pathways of reform both to prevent further abuse and to give confidence to others that our efforts will bring about real and reliable change.

Listening to the cry of children

Pope Francis thus encourages participants in the Warsaw conference to listen to the cry of the victims and to dedicate themselves, with each other and with society in a broader sense, to these important discussions, saying they truly touch not only the future of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe but also the hearts of Christians. “This is our responsibility,” he stresses.

The Pope says participants in the Warsaw meeting are not the first to have taken the responsibility to undertake these steps, which are necessary, and probably they will not be the last. However, he assured them they are not alone in these difficult times.

Acknowledging our mistakes

The Holy Father points out that the recognition of our errors and failings can certainly make us feel vulnerable and fragile. However, this recognition should be regarded as a moment of "splendid grace" and self-emptying "that opens new horizons of love and reciprocal service." "If we recognize our mistakes," he says, "we have nothing to fear, because it is the Lord Himself who has led us to this point."

Pope Francis concludes his video message by urging participants to be "humble instruments of the Lord, at the service of the victims of abuse." They should consider themselves as companions and protagonists of a common future, learning from each other and becoming more faithful and resilient so that, together, the Church may face the challenges of the future.

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18 September 2021, 12:46