In a special statement issued today, Australian Catholic bishops have reiterated their apology to victims and survivors for the harm they suffered, for the instances of cover-up and for the failure to believe survivors’ stories.
This follows the handing down in December of final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“Like the Australian Government and many other institutions, the Catholic bishops of Australia and leaders of religious institutes are currently studying the final report and its recommendations,” the statement says.
“In the long years since the tragedy of child sexual abuse within the Catholic community became known, the Church has committed to policies, procedures and structures to respond better to survivors of abuse and their families, to establish professional standards for all ministers and Church workers, and to safeguard children and vulnerable people.
“For the Church, as for other institutions, this has involved gradual learning and development, and so it will continue to be.”
The bishops said that apologies of the past “seemed too little – not because they were insincere, but because trust has been broken”.
“We stand firm in our resolve to ensure that the abuse of children never happens again in the Catholic Church and to build new bonds of trust,” they said.
“With the Royal Commission concluded, our country and our Church enter into a new moment.
“We are calling upon the Catholic community in Australia to embrace this new moment by beginning the penitential season of Lent with four days of fasting and reparation.
“These are spiritual practices which express our desire for God’s reconciling and healing grace.
“Through fasting, we stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors of abuse whose much deeper hunger is for healing and peace in their lives. Through reparation, we make amends for the sin of those in the Church who abused children or failed to listen and act when they should have.”
The days of fasting and reparation in sorrow for child sexual abuse and for the healing of victims and survivors will be marked by prayer in homes and in Catholic communities.
Urging people to “take to heart” the four days from Ash Wednesday (February 14) to Saturday February 17, the bishops said: “We cannot undo the past. With God’s help, we can make the future better.”
Liturgical and other prayer resources can be accessed at www.catholic.org.au/fastingandreparation
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