2017-01-02 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written to the Bishops of the world condemning all forms of oppression and exploitation of children. His words come in a letter signed on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which takes place each year on December 28, during the Octave of Christmas.
In his letter, the Holy Father calls the Bishops to foster in hearts of Christians the joy that comes from the proclamation of the birth of Christ. But in moving words, he notes that the Christmas story is also accompanied by tears. “Today, too,” the Pope said, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence.” He continued. “In our world – I write this with a heavy heart – we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, of so many families, for the death of their children, their innocent children.”
Pope Francis speaks about the millions of children who are deprived of education and whose innocence is shattered by wars and forced immigation. He also once again begs forgiveness for the sufferings of children who were sexually abused by priests, saying “it is a sin that shames the Church.”
Christian joy, he said, “is born from a call – the same call that Saint Joseph received – to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day.” Pope Francis said the Bishops must find new courage to protect children and to be more sensitive to what is happening in the world around us.
Here is the full text of the Pope’s letter:
Today, on the feast of the Holy Innocents, as the words of the angel to the shepherds still resound in our hearts – “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour” (Lk 2: 10-11) – I feel the need to write to you. We do well to listen to that proclamation again and again; to hear over and over again that God is present in the midst of our people. This certainty, which we renew each year, is the source of our joy and hope.
In these days we experience how the liturgy leads us to the heart of Christmas, into the Mystery which gradually draws us to the source of Christian joy.
As pastors, we are called to help foster this joy among the faithful. We are charged with protecting this joy. I ask you once again that we not let ourselves be robbed of this joy, for we can be disillusioned at times, not unreasonably, with the world around us, with the Church, or even with ourselves, and feel tempted to indulge in a certain melancholy, lacking in hope, which can lay hold of our hearts (cf. Evangelii Gaudium 83).
Christmas is also accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears. The Evangelists did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive. They did not indulge in words that were comforting but unrelated to reality. For them, Christmas was not a flight to fantasy, a way of hiding from the challenges and injustices of their day. On the contrary, they relate the birth of the Son of God as an event fraught with tragedy and grief. Quoting the prophet Jeremiah, Matthew presents it in the bluntest of terms: “A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children” (2:18). It is the sobbing of mothers bewailing the death of their children in the face of Herod’s tyranny and unbridled thirst for power.
Today too, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence. In our world – I write this with a heavy heart – we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, of so many families, for the death of their children, their innocent children.
To contemplate the manger also means to contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbours, especially where children are involved. It also means realizing that that sad chapter in history is still being written today. To contemplate the manger in isolation from the world around us would make Christmas into a lovely story that inspires warm feelings but robs us of the creative power of the Good News that the Incarnate Word wants to give us. The temptation is real.
Can we truly experience Christian joy if we turn our backs on these realities? Can Christian joy even exist if we ignore the cry of our brothers and sisters, the cry of the children?
Saint Joseph was the first to be charged with protecting the joy of salvation. Faced with the atrocious crimes that were taking place, Saint Joseph – the model of an obedient and loyal man – was capable of recognizing God’s voice and the mission entrusted to him by the Father. Because he was able to hear God’s voice, and was docile to his will, Joseph became more conscious of what was going on around him and was able to interpret these events realistically.
The same thing is asked of us pastors today: to be men attentive, and not deaf, to the voice of God, and hence more sensitive to what is happening all around us. Today, with Saint Joseph as our model, we are asked not to let ourselves be robbed of joy. We are asked to protect this joy from the Herods of our own time. Like Joseph, we need the courage to respond to this reality, to arise and take it firmly in hand (cf. Mt 2:20). The courage to guard this joy from the new Herods of our time, who devour the innocence of our children. An innocence robbed from them by the oppression of illegal slave labour, prostitution and exploitation. An innocence shattered by wars and forced immigration, with the great loss that this entails. Thousands of our children have fallen into the hands of gangs, criminal organizations and merchants of death, who only devour and exploit their neediness.
To illustrate this point, there are at present 75 million children who, due to prolonged situations of emergency and crisis, have had to interrupt their education. In 2015, 68% of all persons who were victims of sexual exploitation were children. At the same time, a third of all children who have to live outside their homelands do so because forcibly displaced. We live in a world where almost half of the children who die under the age of five do so because of malnutrition. It is estimated that in 2016 there were 150 million child labourers, many of whom live in conditions of slavery. According to the most recent report presented by UNICEF, unless the world situation changes, in 2030 there will be 167 million children living in extreme poverty, 69 million children under the age of five will die between 2016 and 2030, and 16 million children will not receive basic schooling.
We hear these children and their cries of pain; we also hear the cry of the Church our Mother, who weeps not only for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters, but also because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests. It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power. The Church also weeps bitterly over this sin of her sons and she asks forgiveness. Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to “zero tolerance”.
Christian joy does not arise on the fringes of reality, by ignoring it or acting as if it did not exist. Christian joy is born from a call – the same call that Saint Joseph received – to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day. Christmas is a time that challenges us to protect life, to help it be born and grow. It is a time that challenges us as bishops to find new courage. The courage that generates processes capable of acknowledging the reality that many of our children are experiencing today, and working to ensure them the bare minimum needed so that their dignity as God’s children will not only be respected but, above all, defended.
Let us not allow them to be robbed of joy. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of joy, but guard it and nourish its growth.
May we do this with the paternal fidelity of Saint Joseph and guided by Mary, Mother of tender love, so that our own hearts may never grow hard.
With fraternal affection,
From the Vatican, 28 December 2016
Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs
I posted this article because it has attached the complete text of the much quoted (zero-tolerance) letter sent by the Pope to Bishops.
The following is gthe relevant paragraph:
I personally will believe that “zero tolerance” is the objective when all known predatory clergy are defrocked. All.
I must say that I am taken aback that the Holy Father seems to reduce the damage done to victims of clerical sexual abuse to that of a destruction of their dignity. What of the spiritual damage? What of the loss of faith which is an almost invariable aftermath for those minors and youth who have had the sad misfortune to be molested by a Roman Catholic priest?
Yes Sylvia, I couldn’t agree more! Zero tolerance to me would mean the defrocking of the convicted offenders, and an honest and sincere material effort to begin the rebuilding of the victim’s “dignity”. Included in this “dignity” would be, as you say, a concerted effort on the part of the church to the re-building of a victim’s destroyed faith in the church.
Along with the destroyed faith in the church, some of us have seriously questioned God, and why would God allow these repeated criminal acts to continue. This would need to be addressed as well.
Words are cheap and easy! I have literally begged for help from my diocese, and have received silence in return.
That having been said, I must tell you all that there is one (1) priest in the diocese who has been very supportive towards me personally, and has given very good advice.
I am very grateful for this personal support, but why isn’t it coming from the diocese?
I really hope that Pope Francis is not just giving lip-service to an obvious and very serious problem. Mike.
Now look at this – posted a little while but no chance to comment as yet:
02 January 2017: “No Mercy for Sex Abuse Victims” & related articles
If every known clerical molester were defrocked tomorrow, it would do nothing to restore my faith, trust or belief in the integrity of the Catholic church. It has become for me,and many others I believe, an irrelevant voice in the world more intent on promoting division and exclusion rather than on mediating the unifying path toward the “Universal Christ” who draws all things into Himself. The “Bride of Christ” has become blind by her obsession with image and her quest for power, it is this life that she will lose.
Unfortunately it seems you want a different church Larry, not the Roman Catholic Church. I for one will stick with the Roman Catholic Church, a church which I firmly believe has been hijacked by sexual predators. For all the turmoil and scandal the graces of the Sacraments are still there.
For now, and until these predators are purged from the priesthood, the holiness and sanctity of the priesthood is severely tarnished, and hence so too the image of the Church. That does not at all negate priests who are holy and faithful still serving as priests – alas, however, the ‘pool’ is contaminated by those who are not holy and faithful and truly men of God. The good shepherds are, sad to say, in this era of denial and cover-up, understandably, painted with the same brush as those who merely masquerade as priests.
It is becoming increasingly apparent to me why defrocking these creatures is somewhat similar to pulling a tooth from a fully conscious and alert Siberian Tiger.
The Pope has known about this terrible situation in Argentina for over 7 years, and it appears he has done NOTHING about it, except to ship Corradi out of Argentina and over to Italy, where he apparently continued his criminal quest.
This REEKS of Bernard Prince all over again.
As I said earlier, words are cheap and easy, especially when they come from the mouth of a hypocrite! Mike.
It ‘seems,’ unfortunately I was born into the Catholic church and for that reason perhaps the spiritual anguish that I and a great number of Catholics ( present and former) have been left to deal with, at the hands of this church, is not for everyone who has not been a cradle Catholic to grasp. Literally millions of us are left with a very deep sense of loss, abandonment and a retarded ability to trust not only the Catholic church but CHURCH period. That is not something we choose or are proud of. In all of my years as a participating Catholic, I never did try to persuade or convince anyone that the Catholic church was the only or best path to God…I never saw God as a politician seeking votes and I His campaigner. My decision to express my sentiment about this very sad reality (the state of church) is not to persuade or convince you Sylvia or anyone to leave the Catholic or any other church. We older ones ,among the members who are experiencing this same sense, seem to find it perhaps not so difficult to stop active participation but many of us find it nearly/absolutely impossible to sever ties completely. Our generation is trying to cope with a spiritual catastrophe of a magnitude not expected to be comprehended by any ‘outsider.’ My personal experience with this struggle has led me to the very important realization that God transcends the church and not the other way around. Jesus loves people who can’t or won’t go to church the same as those who go to church. God has the capacity and the will to bestow His grace on all human beings, He loves each of us just the way we are…These are extremely important messages to convey to our brothers and sisters in this human race who are searching and craving for something to restore a deprived sense of hope.
I do not agree with the notion that the Catholic church has been ‘hijacked.’ Not by pedophiles and not by any other group. Pedophiles just like any other animal group on planet earth, converge in places where the object of their appetite are most plentiful and easily accessible. The Catholic church has nourished and served these hungry desires on a platter while they have trashed our children of today along with our children of yesterday. That’s not the doing of a “few” clerical molesters…those are the deeds of a hypocritical institution.
As usual, Larry,your tendency to generalize, and exaggerate are again clouding your attempt at logic.
There were sinners in the time Jesus was on Earth, and many refused to entertain the thoughts, or teachings which told them they needed to change, or accept new teachings. God loved them as well, or he would not have sent his Son to offer them Salvation. The operative word here is OFFER. We, and they were given a free Will, and all of us go the way we choose- even you.
Not everyone who stands on the edge of a high building intends to jump to their death, but many do, or are persuaded by Satan do so.
Left out of your rhetoric always is any reference to Satan, or the continual presence of his evil work in the lives of all of us. There, we also make choices.
The broad paint brush does not apply equally, or in all cases.
You choose what you want to believe, and you choose in error.
You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you Larry. Let’s leave it at that.