2010-09-18 20:13:11

Making the Church a better place

Pope Benedict XVIth's third day in the United Kingdom brought words of sorrow for the child clerical abuse question and the assurance that important steps have been taken for the safeguard of children and young people in all church environments. Philippa Hitchen in London reports...

Making the church a safe place for children has been a central theme of this third day of the papal visit to Britain. The whole question of clerical child abuse and the Vatican’s response to it had already been discussed on the way over to Scotland, as Pope Benedict responded to questions from journalists travelling on the papal plane.
It was also a theme he elaborated on at length during his homily in Westminster Cathedral, speaking of the outstretched arms of Christ on the Cross offering hope and comfort to all those who suffer physically, mentally or spiritually – including those whose lives have been shattered by sexual abuse.
And shortly after speaking of the shame and humiliation such unspeakable crimes have caused to him and all church leaders, Pope Benedict met directly with five men and women who have been abused by members of the clergy.
This moving encounter took place at the Nunciature in Wimbledon where the pope has been staying throughout this 4 day visit. The Pope spent around 40 minutes with these victims, expressing his deep sorrow and shame and praying that they might experience the healing and reconciliation needed to be able to overcome their traumatic experiences.
And the response of the Church in the UK to the abuse crisis was also at the heart of a meeting the Pope had on Saturday afternoon with professionals and volunteers responsible for child protection in parishes and dioceses up and down the country, a meeting that took place in an old peoples’ home in the south London suburb of Vauxhall.

"It is deplorable that, in such marked contrast to the Church’s long tradition of care for them, children have suffered abuse and mistreatment at the hands of some priests and religious. We have all become much more aware of the need to safeguard children, and you are an important part of the Church’s broad-ranging response to the problem. "

Pope Benedict acknowledged the important steps that have been taken by the Catholic bishops in this country and the safeguards that are now in place for children and young people in all church environments.
As the pope was speaking, thousands of young Catholics were gathering in the central Hyde Park for a prayer vigil ahead of Sunday’s beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. For them, their families and the wider Catholic community here, these heartfelt words of the Pope will be of great comfort as they too try to deal with the negative impact of the abuse crisis in countries around the world. And perhaps, possibly, his words and actions may just lay to rest the media focus on this crisis and allow the positive work of the church in this country to receive the attention it deserves.

In the United Kingdom with Pope Benedict I’m Philippa Hitchen

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