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The Pope and the abuse crisis

Dear friends.

My name is Father Federico Lombardi. I am the Director of the Vatican Press Office. I’m here to present a much-awaited document written by the Pope himself.

It’s his letter to the Catholics of Ireland and regards the sexual abuse committed by some members of the Church in that country.I think it’s an honest and courageous letter. It communicates the Pope’s sorrow and his personal commitment to do everything he can to heal, repair, and renew.

He addresses the victims, first and foremost. He says how deeply he shares their pain and suffering. He understands how victims feel betrayed by trusted representatives of the Church. The Pope has met with abuse victims before – in the United States, Australia and Rome – and says he wants to meet others as well. He is uncompromising towards those who committed the abuse.

In the letter he tells them they are accountable to God for their sins, and to the courts for their crimes. The Pope insists that abusers face the full force of justice. He tells them to do penance and to have faith in Divine Mercy.

But the Pope doesn’t stop here. He speaks to priests and parents, to young people and to all Catholics. He encourages us and invites us to a new awareness and responsibility on this matter. The Pope also addresses the Bishops. He criticises the mistakes made in protecting and guiding the people entrusted to them. He tells the Bishops to apply the Church’s norms strictly in all cases of abuse. He also insists they collaborate with civil authorities to ensure that justice is done and that young people are protected.

The Pope then suggests some concrete spiritual and pastoral initiatives. He calls for penance and spiritual renewal.

When the Pope was in the United States he spoke out strongly on the issue of abuse. His words helped the Church there to emerge from a similar crisis and to go forward again with hope and trust. It’s important that this letter to the faithful of Ireland does the same thing. I hope it becomes the starting point of a new way forward.