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Archbishop Mark Coleridge delivers the homily at the Mass closing the Meeting on "The Protection of Minors in the Church" Archbishop Mark Coleridge delivers the homily at the Mass closing the Meeting on "The Protection of Minors in the Church"  (Vatican Media)

Protection of Minors: Archbp. Coleridge says the Church dare not fail

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, delivers the homily at Mass closing the Meeting on “The Protection of Minors in the Church” pledging to make the Church a safe place for everyone.

By Linda Bordoni

Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass in the Vatican’s Sala Regia on Sunday in the presence of all participants at the just concluded Meeting on “The Protection of Minors in the Church”.

The homily was delivered by Archbishop Mark Coleridge who reflected on the sins that have led to the clerical sex abuse crisis, called for conversion and promised a new season of mission in which the horrors of the past are not repeated.

The Archbishop reflected on how, in the Gospel just proclaimed, one voice alone is heard: the voice of Jesus. 

“It is good that, after all our words, there are now only the words of Christ: Jesus alone remains, as on the mount of the Transfiguration” he said.

The Archbishop said Jesus speaks to us of power, words that resonate in this “place where earthly and heavenly powers meet, touched at times by infernal powers as well”.

Power must never be separated from service

“In this Sala Regia the word of God invites us to contemplate power, as we have done through these days together” he said noting how the pastors of the Church, like David, have received a gift of power: “power however to serve, to create; a power that is with and for but not over; a power, as St Paul says, ‘which the Lord gave for building you up, not for destroying you”.

Archbishop Coleridge reflected on how power is dangerous, because it can destroy, and on how, during the past days, men of the Church have pondered how in the Church power can turn destructive when separated from service.

He said this power can be used not to create but to destroy, and even in the end to kill: “In sexual abuse, the powerful lay hands on the Lord’s consecrated ones, even the weakest and most vulnerable of them”.

He also spoke of the concealment of abuse and said that when this happens, the powerful show themselves not men of heaven, but men of earth.

Call for true conversion

Archbishop Coleridge said that although “we desire a truly safe Church”, we have not always chosen the mercy of the man of heaven, preferring instead, “the indifference of the man of earth and the desire to protect the Church’s reputation and even our own”.

“The man of earth must die so that the man of heaven can be born; the old Adam must give way to the new Adam. This will require a true conversion, without which we will remain on the level of “mere administration” – as the Holy Father writes in Evangelii Gaudium – ‘mere administration’ which leaves untouched the heart of the abuse crisis” he said.

He called for conversion that will enable us to see that the wounds of those who have been abused. Their wounds, he said, are our wounds, their fate is ours, they are not our enemies but bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh: “They are us, and we are them”.

It is a necessary conversion, Archbishop Coleridge said, that will ensure that “the world and the Church begin to look quite different”.

A new season of mission

This conversion, he added, is a true revolution and a great grace which can open for the Church a new season of mission.

The Archbishop said that in these past few days “we have been on Calvary”, listening to survivors, hearing Christ crying out in the darkness.

But, he said, “hope is born from his wounded heart, and hope becomes prayer, as the universal Church gathers around us in this upper room: may the darkness of Calvary lead the Church throughout the world to the light of Easter, to the Lamb who is our sun (cf Apoc 21:23)”.

He said a mission stretches before us: “a mission demanding not just words but real concrete action” and he pledged to “do all we can to bring justice and healing to survivors of abuse; we will listen to them, believe them and walk with them; we will ensure that those who have abused are never again able to offend; we  will  call  to  account  those  who  have  concealed  abuse;  we  will  strengthen  the  processes  of recruitment and formation of Church leaders; we will educate all our people in what safeguarding requires”.

“We will do all in our power to make sure that the horrors of the past are not repeated and that the Church is a safe place for all, a loving mother especially for the young and the vulnerable” he said.

'We dare not fail'

The Archbishop said bishops and priests will not act alone, but will work with all concerned for the good of the young and the vulnerable, and promised they will continue to deepen their understanding of abuse and its effects, of why it has happened in the Church and what must be done to eradicate it.

“All of this will take time”, he said, “but we do not have forever and we dare not fail.”

24 February 2019, 11:31