Excerpts put together from: Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God “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. These are 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 not only create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. 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. 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.
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. 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).
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. It is helpful to remember in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. 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 structures without roots, without bodies and, ultimately, without lives.
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. 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. 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. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command: “But this kind of demon does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21).
An initial step we can make as a people of faith: Spiritual Bouquets are prayers or devotional acts that are offered for someone else. Our parish will embark on a two-week journey offering prayers and devotions for those victimized by the Church of Pittsburgh. Posters have been placed around the church indicating the spiritual gifts we will offer during this time. You are asked to mark down the spiritual gift you have given on one of these posters. At the conclusion of our two weeks we will tally the information and have a final Spiritual Bouquet showing our prayerful commitment to bringing about healing to the victims.
We know that all benefit from prayer. The nicest part of this ministry is that it can be done communally or alone, at church or at home. Our categories for offerings include: Rosary, Our Father, Act of Fasting/Penance, Novenas/Litanies, Holy Communion, Stations of the Cross, The Divine Mercy Chaplet, A Spiritual/Corporal Work of Mercy, Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, Offering of Individual Mass Intention, Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, and a category identified as Other which you may fill in as appropriate to your gift. We know that many of our homebound parishioners are the best “pray-ers” and we want to recognize your wonderful contribution to this bouquet. Please let the office know of your devotional acts offered for the victims and we will include that in our final bouquet.