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Pope’s strong words of condemnation welcomed

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Leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia have welcomed Pope Francis’ letter to the people of God regarding sexual abuse in the Church.

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In his letter Pope Francis told Catholics that as an ecclesial community “we were not where we should have been… realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives”.

“We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” he said, adding that the Church had “delayed” in implementing measures to protect children and to hold those who have abused them to account.

The letter was issued following the release of the grand jury report which revealed that at least 1000 children were abused by Catholics priests across six dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania over a period of seven decades.

In a statement released this month, ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the bishops shared the Holy Father’s determination “to protect young people and vulnerable adults”.

“What Church leaders in Australia have said in the past is consistent with what the Pope has written now: ‘It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others’.

“These are important words from Pope Francis, but words are not enough. Now is the time for action on many levels.

“The Royal Commission has done much good for this country, especially in creating a safe place for survivors to be heard and believed. We again thank the survivors who have so courageously shared their stories,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ praised the letter for its strength and renewed commitment to the protection of children and vulnerable people in the care of the Church.

Catholic Religious Australia president, Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj said it was shameful that in the past, the response was one of omission and that people had been so deeply damaged that the wounds of the past may never disappear.

She said Catholic Religious and their leaders recognised that now was the time for action.

“While we cannot apologise enough for the damage done, we know that words are not sufficient,” she said.

“There is immense work ahead and Catholic Religious Australia is committed to working in solidarity with Church communities, agencies and organisations to undertake this work as effectively as possible.

“During the years of the Royal Commission, we have begun the work of implementing change to create a culture of greater care, accountability and transparency. This may not yet be visible, and much work is yet to take place, but it is a beginning and we are committed to action.

“As contemporary Catholics, we recognise a change of culture within our Church is necessary; one that is seen, felt and experienced.”

The ACBC and CRA were scheduled to release their formal response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on September 1.

Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the thousands of cases of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by Catholics in Ireland as he concluded his historic visit to Dublin for the World Meeting of Families on August 26.

The Pope’s letter can be found at www.adelaide.catholic.org.au

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