Category Archives: National News

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishes Revised Translation of the Rite for Blessing the Holy Oils

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—The publishing division of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has recently made available a revised translation of the rite for blessing the holy oils, entitled the Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism.

The book is used at the Chrism Mass, which is one of the highlights of the year in a diocese, normally held on Holy Thursday morning or on an earlier day of Holy Week. At that Mass the bishop, surrounded by a great number of clergy, religious, and faithful, blesses new holy oils for the coming year. The oils will be used for various ceremonies, such as for the preparation and celebration of baptism and for the celebration of the sacraments of confirmation, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. They are used in some of the most majestic Catholic ceremonies, such as the dedication of a new church, and also in some of the simplest, like an anointing in a hospital room.

“USCCB Publications has produced an attractive book that is worthy of a ceremony as important as the Chrism Mass. The use of the holy oils is a striking part of the Church’s prayer in various moments of a person’s life and in important moments in the life of a parish,” explains Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship. “All of these ceremonies throughout the diocese are linked together through those oils blessed by the bishop.”

The Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism is intended primarily for bishops in the United States and for their diocesan worship offices, but will also be a useful reference for seminaries, theological libraries, and for those interested in the Roman liturgy. It may be ordered online.

Additional books and resources pertaining to marriage and family life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, ministry and more can be found by visiting the USCCB’s online bookstore at https://store.usccb.org. •

Bishop David Talley Named Bishop-Elect of Memphis

from the USCCB

The Most Reverend David Prescott Talley, J.C.D., M.S.W., Bishop of Alexandria in Louisiana, has been named as the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee by His Holiness, Pope Francis. The appointment was announced in Rome on March 5, 2019. Bishop Talley will serve as Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Alexandria until his installation as Bishop of Memphis in on April 2 at 2:00 p.,. in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. At that time the See of Alexandria will become vacant and the College of Consultors will have eight days in which to elect a Diocesan Administrator.

Bishop Talley was ordained to the episcopacy on April 2, 2013, as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He was appointed as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria on September 21, 2016, and took possession of the diocese as its twelfth bishop upon the resignation of Bishop Ronald Herzog on February 2, 2017.
In all things Bishop Talley fostered a spirit of unity and hope in planning for the future of the diocese while building on its long history.

Digital Trends Research Project

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Development

Key Takeaways to Improve Results at Your Parish!

Nic Prenger of the Prenger Solutions Group, in partnership with eCatholic, surveyed 188 parishes in January of 2019. The sample size included parishes from across the country, both large and small. Prenger was kind enough to share the eye-opening results.

1. Parishes should engage their parishioners on Facebook:
a. Parishes that are active on Facebook boasted an average household giving that was 6.4% higher than parishes that aren’t on Facebook.
b. Parishes that posted on Facebook at least once a day reported average household giving 44% higher than parishes who posted less than once a day.
c. Parishes with a high percentage of parishioner “followers” (measured as at least one follower per registered household) reported an average offertory increase of 10% from 2017 to 2018. All other parishes in the study reported a 1% decline, on average.

2. Parishes should promote online giving
a. Parishes saw growth in online giving (defined as a 10% or more increase in online giving from 2017 to 2018) saw their total offertory increase by an average of 9%.
b. Parishes that did not make a leap in online giving saw their offertory decline by an average of 2%.
c. Analysis: The data shows that we aren’t just transitioning donors from one method to the other. Online giving is helping parishes to raise more money overall.

3. The value of an email address:
a. Parishes with fewer than 30% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $589.
b. Parishes with between 30% – 70% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $597.
c. Parishes with more than 70% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $716.

4. The value of sending a regular e-newsletter
a. Parishes that sent a weekly, monthly or quarterly e-newsletter saw a 4% increase in 2018 offertory.
b. Parishes that did not send an e-newsletter saw a 1% decline in 2018 offertory.

Feel free to take this information and adapt your digital giving program where you worship so that your parish can enjoy these new forms of Stewardship!  •

From the Pope: Your Kingdom Come

from the Vatican Press Office

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the second invocation with which we address God is “Your Kingdom come” (Mt 6: 10). After praying that His name be hallowed, the believer expresses the desire that His Kingdom come in haste. This desire springs, so to speak, from the very heart of Christ, who began His preaching in Galilee proclaiming: “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mk 1,15). These words are not a threat at all; on the contrary, they are a happy announcement, a message of joy. Jesus does not want to push people to convert by sowing the fear of God’s imminent judgment or a sense of guilt for evil committed. Jesus does not proselytize: He simply announces. On the contrary, what He brings is the Good News of salvation, and starting from this He calls us to convert. Everyone is invited to believe in the “Gospel”: the lordship of God brought close to His children. This is the Gospel: the lordship of God made close to His children. And Jesus proclaims this wonder, this grace: God, the Father, loves us, is near us and teaches us to walk on the path of holiness.
The signs of the coming of this Kingdom are many, and all positive. Jesus begins His ministry by taking care of the sick, both in body and in spirit, of those who experienced social exclusion –for example, lepers – and of sinners who were looked upon with disdain by all, even by those who were greater sinners than they were, but who feigned righteousness. And what did Jesus call them? “Hypocrites.” Jesus Himself indicates these signs, the signs of the Kingdom of God: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Mt 11: 5).

“Your Kingdom come!” The Christian repeats insistently when he prays to “our Father.” Jesus came; but the world is still marked by sin, populated by so many people who suffer, by people who are not reconciled and do not forgive, by wars and by so many forms of exploitation; let us we think of the trafficking of children, for example. All these facts are proof that the victory of Christ has not yet been fully implemented: many men and women still live with a closed heart. It is above all in these situations that the second invocation of the Lord’s Prayer emerges on the Christian’s lips: “Your Kingdom come!” Which is like saying: “Father, we need you! Jesus, we need you, we need you to be everywhere and forever. You are Lord in our midst!”. “Your kingdom come, may You be among us.”

Sometimes we ask ourselves: why is this Kingdom being realized so slowly? Jesus loves to speak of His victory with the language of the parables. For example, He says that the Kingdom of God is like a field where good wheat and weeds grow together: the worst mistake would be to want to intervene, immediately eradicating from the world those that seem to us to be weeds. God is not like us, God has patience. It is not with violence that the Kingdom is established in the world: its style of propagation is meekness (cf. Mt 13: 24-30).

The Kingdom of God is certainly a great force, the greatest that there is, but not according to the criteria of the world; this is why it never seems to have an absolute majority. It is like the leaven that is kneaded in the flour: it seemingly disappears, yet it is precisely this that ferments the mass (cf. Mt 13: 33). Or it is like a grain of mustard, so small, almost invisible, but it carries within it the explosive force of nature, and once grown it becomes the greatest of all the trees in the orchard (cf. Mt 13: 31-32).

In this “destiny” of the Kingdom of God we can intuit the story of Jesus’ life: He too was a meager sign for His contemporaries, an event almost unknown to the official historians of the time. A “grain of wheat” as He defined Himself, Who dies in the earth but only in this way can “produce many seeds” (cf. Jn 12: 24). The symbol of the seed is eloquent: one day the peasant sinks it into the earth (a gesture that looks like a burial), and then, “night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mk 4: 27). A seed that sprouts is more the work of God than the man who sowed it (cf. Mk 4: 27). God always precedes us, God always surprises us. Thanks to Him, after the night of Good Friday there is a dawn of Resurrection capable of illuminating the whole world with hope.

“Your kingdom come!” Let us sow this word in the midst of our sins and failures. Let us give it to people who are defeated and bent by life, to those who have experienced more hatred than love, to those who have lived useless days without ever understanding why. Let us give it to those who have fought for justice, to all the martyrs of history, to those who have concluded that they have fought for nothing and that evil always dominates in this world. Then we will hear the Lord’s prayer respond. Those words of hope will be repeated for the umpteenth time, the same ones that the Spirit has placed in the seal of all the Holy Scriptures: “Yes, I will come soon!”: This is the Lord’s answer: “I will come soon.” Amen. And the Church of the Lord replies: “Come, Lord Jesus” (see Rev 2: 20). “Your Kingdom come” is like saying “Come, Lord Jesus”. And Jesus says: “I will come soon”. And Jesus comes, in His way, but every day. Let us have trust in this. And when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we always say: “Your Kingdom come,” to feel in the heart: “Yes, yes, I will come, and I will come soon.” Thank you!

USCCB Pro-Life Chairman Calls All Catholics to Fight with Renewed Vigor for the Unborn

0319pregnant

from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued the following statement in response to several states moving forward with legislation that would permit a baby to be aborted at nine months.

Archbishop Naumann’s full statement follows:

“Abortion has always been built on a lie. Today, the lie is switching from ‘abortion is a choice’ to ‘abortion is healthcare.’ A law recently passed in New York not only legalizes abortion essentially for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy but removes any protection for children born alive after abortion. A similar bill was proposed in Virginia along with several other states, all in the name of women’s health.

This legislation is evil, pure and simple. And it shocks the conscience to see such evil legislation greeted with raucous cheers and standing ovations. Most grieving to our Lord of Life is that those who advocate for abortion put their eternal souls in jeopardy.

It is sickeningly dishonest to claim that women’s lives or health depend on intentionally killing their children. This is especially true for late-term abortion, which always involves the purposeful destruction of a child which could have been born alive, with much less risk to the mother, had they both received real healthcare.

Now is the time for all Catholics—bishops, priests, and laity—to fight for the unborn with renewed vigor. We must educate family, friends, legislators, and fellow citizens about how it is never necessary to intentionally kill unborn children in order to save their mothers. Local action is especially important. Though ending Roe v. Wade is a central goal of the pro-life movement, if the decision were overturned, only 11 states would immediately ban abortion; the other 39 states would still allow it.

I urge Catholics, and thoughtful Americans of all religions or none at all to advocate for local change. Sign up for your State Catholic Conference or diocesan pro-life advocacy network, which can help you communicate to elected officials. Or seek out state and local pro-life groups, including parish respect life groups, that are making a difference at the state level.

Though we live in very dark days, we know that the Lord has already triumphed over death. But we must use this time on earth to be His hands and feet. This means each of us rededicating ourselves to prayer, and fighting for the most vulnerable among us, especially unborn children and their mothers.”

USCCB President Issues Statement on McCarrick in Response to Judgement by Holy See

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement upon the decision of the Holy See announced today regarding Theodore McCarrick.

Cardinal DiNardo’s Full Statement Follows:

“The Holy See’s announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing. For us bishops, it strengthens our resolve to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to Pope Francis for the determined way he has led the Church’s response.

If you have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of someone within the Catholic Church, I urge you to contact local law enforcement and your local diocese or eparchy. Victims Assistance Coordinators are available to help. We are committed to healing and reconciliation.”

U.S. Bishops Approved “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism”

0119fabre

from the USCCB

BALTIMORE— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved during its November General Assembly, the formal statement, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism.” The full body of bishops approved it by a two-thirds majority vote of 241 to three, with one abstention.

The USCCB Cultural Diversity in the Church Committee, chaired by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, of San Antonio, TX, spearheaded the letter’s drafting and guided it through the voting process. Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, of Houma-Thibodaux, Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Chair of the Sub-committee on African American Affairs within the Cultural Diversity Committee, issued the following statement:

“The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years. Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time.”

Initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in August 2017, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism was created to address the evil of racism in our society and Church, to address the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions, and to support the implementation of the bishops’ pastoral letter on racism.

“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” is a Pastoral Letter from the full body of bishops to the lay faithful and all people of goodwill addressing the evil of racism.

The pastoral letter asks us to recall that we are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God. Because we all bear the image of God, racism is above all a moral and theological problem that manifests institutionally and systematically. Only a deep individual conversion of heart, which then multiplies, will compel change and reform in our institutions and society. It is imperative to confront racism’s root causes and the injustice it produces. The love of God binds us together. This same love should overflow into our relationships with all people. The conversions needed to overcome racism require a deep encounter with the living God in the person of Christ who can heal all division.

“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” is not the first time the U.S. Bishops have spoken collectively on race issues in the United States, but it is the first time in almost 40 years.

In 1979, they approved “Brothers and Sisters to Us: A Pastoral Letter on Racism in Our Day.” Among the many things they discussed was the fact that “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.” The newly approved “Open Wide Our Hearts” continues the message that “Brothers and Sisters to Us” sought to convey.

The full text, as well as many accompanying pastoral resources, are posted at http://www.usccb.org/racism. Resources include a bulletin insert, homily help, prayer materials, background information on systemic racism, and activities for primary, secondary, and higher education classroom settings.  •

 

Pope Francis General Audience 10/17/18 “Do Not Kill”

from the Vatican Press Office

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to continue the catechesis on the Fifth Word of the Decalogue, “Do not kill.” We have already underlined how this commandment reveals that in the eyes of God, human life is precious, sacred and inviolable. No one can disregard the life of others or his own; indeed man carries within him the image of God and is the object of His infinite love, whatever the condition may be in which he is called to existence.

In the Gospel reading we have just listened to, Jesus reveals to us an even deeper meaning to this commandment. He affirms that, before God’s tribunal, even anger against a brother is a form of homicide. For this reason the apostle John writes: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer” (I Jn 3: 15). But Jesus does not stop at this, and by the same logic he adds that even insults and disdain can kill. And we are accustomed to insulting, it is true. And an insult comes as easily to us as if it were a breath. And Jesus says to us, “Stop, because the insult hurts, it kills.” Disdain. “But I … this people, I disdain them.” And this is a way of killing the dignity of a person. It would be good if this teaching of Jesus entered into the mind and heart, and each one of us said: “Do not insult anyone ever again”. It would be a good intention, because Jesus tells us: “Look, if you disdain, if you insult, if you hate, this is murder.”

No human code of law equates such different acts by assigning them the same degree of judgment. And coherently Jesus even invites us to interrupt the offering of the sacrifice in the temple if we remember that a brother is offended by us, to go and look for him and reconcile with him. We too, when we go to Mass, should have this attitude of reconciliation with the people we have had problems with. Even if we thought bad about them, we insulted them. But many times, while we wait for the priest to say Mass, we chat and talk badly about the others. But this must not be done. Think of the gravity of the insult, of contempt, of hatred: Jesus puts them on the line of killing.

What does Jesus mean by extending the field of the Fifth Word to this point? Man has a noble life, very sensitive, and possesses a hidden self no less important than his physical being. Indeed, an inappropriate sentence is enough to offend the innocence of a child. A gesture of coldness is enough to hurt a woman. To break the heart of a young person is enough to deny his trust. To annihilate a man, just ignore him. Indifference kills. It is like saying to the other person: “You are a dead man for me,” because you killed him in your heart. Not to love is the first step to killing; and not killing is the first step to love.

In the Bible, at the beginning, we read that terrible phrase that came out of the mouth of the first murderer, Cain, after the Lord asked him where his brother is. Cain replies: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4: 9). [1] This is how it kills: “It does not concern me,” “It is your business, not mine” and similar things. Let us try to answer this question: are we our brothers’ keepers? Yes, we are! We are each other’s keepers! And this is the path of life, it is the path of non-killing.

Human life needs love. And what is authentic love? It is what Christ showed us, that is, mercy. The love we cannot do without, is the one that forgives, which welcomes those who have harmed us. None of us can survive without mercy, we all need forgiveness. So, if killing means destroying, suppressing, eliminating someone, then not killing will mean curing, valuing, including. And also forgiving.

No one can deceive himself by thinking, “I’m fine because I do not do anything wrong.” A mineral or a plant has this kind of existence, but a man does not. A person – a man or a woman – no. More is demanded of a man or woman. There is good to be done, prepared for each of us, each to his own, which makes us truly ourselves. “Do not kill” is an appeal to love and mercy. It is a call to living according to the Lord Jesus who gave his life for us and rose for us. Once we all repeated, here in the Square, a phrase of a saint on this. Perhaps it will help us: “Doing no harm is a good thing. But not doing good is not good.” We must always do good. We must go further.

He, the Lord, who incarnating himself sanctified our existence; He, who with his blood made it priceless; He, “the author of life” (Acts 3: 15), thanks to whom each person is a gift from the Father. In him, in his love stronger than death, and through the power of the Spirit that the Father gives us, we can accept the Word, “Do not kill” as the most important and essential appeal: that is, not killing means a call to love.

Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2259: “In the account of Abel’s murder by his brother Cain, Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: ‘What have you done? the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground, and now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand’ (Gen 4: 10-11).”

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement Following Meeting with Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY—Following a private audience with Pope Francis on September 13 in Vatican City, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement regarding the recent moral crisis in the American Catholic Church.

“We are grateful to the Holy Father for receiving us in audience. We shared with Pope Francis our situation in the United States –  how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse. He listened very deeply from the heart. It was a lengthy, fruitful and good exchange.

As we departed the audience, we prayed the Angelus together for God’s mercy and strength as we work to heal the wounds. We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together identifying the most effective next steps.” •

Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the People of God

from Vatican Information Services

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately 70 years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side He stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise He made to our fathers: “He has scattered the proud in their conceit; He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by His disciples, their unworthy reception of His body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces His heart. We can only call to Him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command. This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people.”

Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to Himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

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. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer,” seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them. •