CHANGES TO MASS TIMES AT CATHEDRAL & SACRED HEART

By | Churches, Liturgy, News

CHANGES TO MASS TIMES

 

CATHEDRAL

As from Monday, the 24th June 2019, due to the fact that priests in the Cathedral are or will be away or convalescing, apart from the fact that we have also lost Fr Mario Tong, we need to suspend temporarily one of the Masses celebrated in the Cathedral.

Therefore, the 7.30 morning Mass will be suspended for the time being.

This decision was not taken lightly, but under the extraordinary and unexpected circumstances we are in, we are sure that you will understand.

During the summer months commencing on Saturday 29th June, the weekend AND weekday evening Masses will be at 7.15 pm.

__________________________

 

SACRED HEART

 

For the time being during the summer months, in order to ensure we have a Priest available, the Mass schedule will be as follows as from Saturday 22nd June :

 

Friday 28th:         Feast of the Sacred Heart, followed by the traditional Parish celebration. Mass will be at 7 p.m.

 

All Saturdays & Holy Days of Obligation:       8:00 p.m.

                                                   All Sundays:        9:30 a.m.

VOS ESTIS LUX MUNDI

By | News, Vatican

YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

POPE PROMULGATES NEW LAW ON SAFEGUARDING FOR THE CHURCH

The Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis, promulgated new norms for the Church’s handling of abuse on May 9th through a motu proprio (‘on his own initiative), titled, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”). He approved its promulgation on an experimental basis for a period of three years. It will enter in effect June 1, 2019.

The Pope wrote: “The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful”. The Bishop has the primary responsibility of ensuring that all issues concerning the Safeguarding of children and vulnerable persons, including the processing of any allegations, is handled efficiently with a ‘zero tolerance’ standard or practice.

Nevertheless, it is also the responsibility of everyone to ensure an environment of safeguarding is maintained and that there is vigilance to report abuses when they occur. It is clear through these norms, that there can be no ‘cover-up’. “Therefore, [the Pope wrote] it is good that procedures be universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful”.

The norms regard what are called, in canon law, “delicts against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue,” consisting of:

-sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person;

-forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority;

-and the production or possession of child pornography.

The new law also sanctions any actions intended to cover-up a civil or canonical investigation into accusations of child pornography use, sexual abuse of minors, or sexual coercion through abuse of power. It also emphasizes that “the person under investigation enjoys the presumption of innocence”.

Furthermore, it requires that the Church authorities be committed to ensuring “that those who state that they have been harmed, together with their families, are to be treated with dignity and respect,” be welcomed, listened to, and supported, offered spiritual assistance, and medical and psychological assistance.

A crucial aspect of the new legislation for the entire Church is that it introduces obligatory reporting, requiring that every cleric or religious man or woman who has become aware of an accusation of abuse or cover-up report it “promptly” to the proper Church authority.

The motu proprio also states that every diocese in the world is required to create a stable mechanism or system through which people may submit reports of abuse or its cover-up. The exact form of the system, which could also be an entire office, will be left to the discretion of the individual diocese, but must be established by June 2020.

In Gibraltar, a Diocesan Safeguarding Commission was set up in 2018, on the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels.

A diocesan Policy was also established and appropriate Safeguarding training, beginning with our clergy, is being offered to all the groups and persons helping in any way in our parishes.

As Pope Francis wrote: “In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church…. This becomes possible only with the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, as we must always keep in mind the words of Jesus: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5). Even if so much has already been accomplished, we must continue to learn from the bitter lessons of the past, looking with hope towards the future’”.

If you wish to learn more about Safeguarding in our Diocese, please visit the pages specifically dedicated to this on our website.

To contact our diocesan Safeguarding Officer or relevant agencies for any concerns you may have, please visit the contact details page.

If you believe that a child or vulnerable adult has suffered or is in immediate risk of suffering significant harm, for example, physical or sexual assault or theft of their property, then you should contact the Police / the Care Agency (Social Services) Department immediately.

DOING NOTHING IS NOT AN OPTION!

In all cases where such a situation arises within a church or church-related context, then the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer should be contacted too.

BISHOP ZAMMIT’S EASTER MESSAGE

By | News, Seasons

From Death to Life.

 

Alleluia!

The Lord is Risen!

This is the Christian proclamation that resounds throughout the Churches around the world that profess the Christian faith on Easter Sunday.

Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead.   His followers saw him executed through being crucified, being laid in the tomb, and then they met him unexpectedly as one who has risen from the dead.

As such we don’t really know what exactly happened at the resurrection, what we know is that Christ was dead and then he rose from the dead.

The resurrection is always and everywhere.

Easter is right at the heart of our life. When we look at life with Easter eyes, then we experience that forgiveness comes beyond grievance, that peace comes beyond conflict, that joy comes beyond sorrow, freedom comes beyond all different kinds of imprisonment, and that love triumphs over fear. In such instances we have the resurrection. Once again the stone is rolled away and Jesus rises from the dead and we rise with him.

The New Testament says that Jesus wasn’t the only one to rise from the dead. He is the first born of many brothers and sisters, us, and therefore where he has gone, from death into an unimaginable life, we are called to follow. We do so as we celebrate Easter, celebrating the resurrection which in reality is happening all around us.

Easter is a call to come out of our tombs. There are so many of us who unfortunately are more prone to remain in our tombs. We continue to remain in our tombs when we lose the perspective of hope in our life. Very often, in facing problems and in dealing with our trials and difficulties, we begin to wonder: is Jesus really alive? That is why many of us allow sadness and grief to continue to hold on to us, and that is why we cannot see the bright light, the joy of Easter.

During Easter we are called to focus on those who have encountered the risen Lord. We realise that the Apostles, who encountered the risen Lord, experienced a change in their life. From a life of pessimism to one of joy, one of courage and hope.

That is what we need to learn from the Apostles. In our daily lives, are we ready to release all hurts, injustices, the anger, the resentment, and learn to heal ourselves and others, and become transforming agents?

This is what we need to enter into the Easter experience, of encountering the Risen Lord, so that our lives will be changed and transformed.

Have a wonderful and blessed Easter celebration.

+Carmel Zammit

Bishop of Gibraltar

GOOD FRIDAY COLLECTION FOR THE HOLY PLACES

By | News

On Good Friday, during the 3 p.m. afternoon service in all churches throughout the world, the Special Collection for the Holy Places in Jerusalem, our Mother Church, will take place.

Cardinal Sandri, Head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches, in his letter sent to all Bishops states  “even today the Middle East is witnessing a process that has torn apart the relations between the peoples of the region” and, quoting Pope St. Paul VI in his  Exhortation Nobis in Animo  reminds us that “it is necessary for Christians from all over the world to show their generosity, bringing to the Church of Jerusalem the charity of their prayers, the warmth of their understanding and the tangible sign of their solidarity”.

Cardinal Sandri conveys Pope Francis’ deep gratitude to the Faithful who strive for the success of the Collection.

The task of collecting the donations for the Holy Places is entrusted by the Holy See to the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. Gibraltar is blessed to have men and women who commit themselves to support Jerusalem and the Holy places in various ways. their work of charity is truly impressive, including the many schools and hospitals that depend on donations from abroad due to their poverty and challenging situation. For more information visit their website where you can learn more about their charitable activity.

SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD

By | News

Every March 25th we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to Mary (Luke 1:26-38).

We contemplate on the Gift that God bestowed on the young, ever blessed, Virgin Mary: the Second Person of the Sacred Trinity, Jesus the Word of God, took flesh in Mary’s womb when she conceived Him on this day. She responded to God the Father with freedom, joy and love. She said ‘Yes’:

And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord;

let it be to me according to your word’.

And the angel departed from her”.

 

There is a famous sermon from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, which speaks of the sense of urgency in seeking Mary’s reply. It was as if the whole world awaits the Virgin’s answer! Take a moment to read this beautiful meditation on today’s feast.

 _________________________

 

From a sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaux

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

 

________________

 

Let us pray.

 

Confirm in our minds the mysteries of the true faith,

we pray, O Lord,

so that, confessing that he who was conceived of the Virgin Mary

is true God and true man,

we may, through the saving power of his Resurrection,

merit to attain eternal joy.

Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

HOW YOUR DONATIONS “FOR PERSECUTED CHURCHES” HAS HELPED

By | News

“I watched as my husband was butchered to death”

The money that was collected for the ‘Persecuted Churches‘ and sent to ACN(UK) for Nigeria, has been helping Christians facing persecution there.

Read this moving account of a Christian woman’s horrific experience of the atrocities carried out by Boko Haram.

ACN News: Thursday, 14th March 2019 – NIGERIA With picture ‘0314Nigeria_pic’: Catherine Ibrahim with her children, Daniel (left) and Salome (© Aid to the Church in Need)

By Aldie Vanessa Offiong and John Pontifex, ACN(UK)

 

THE full horror of Islamist militia violence in north-east Nigeria has been revealed in a Christian woman’s very personal account of torture, grief and survival against all the odds.

Speaking in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Catherine Ibrahim described how Boko Haram gunmen forced her to watch as they killed her husband.

As insurgents entered her village, she ran home to rescue her children – Salome, then aged seven, and five-year-old Daniel – but by the time she got there, the fighters had arrived.

Catherine said: “Then, one of the insurgents savagely dragged me, so I could witness my husband’s death.

“They butchered my husband mercilessly, and they made sure that I saw it all. I can’t forget the fear in his eyes. I don’t want to say more than this. I hate to remember.”

Helpless as her children were taken into captivity by Boko Haram, Catherine went on to describe how she set off in search of them – only to be seized herself.

She was thrown into a detention camp and there – to her astonishment – she was reunited with Salome and Daniel.

But tears of joy turned to sadness when she was punished for trying to escape.

She was separated from her children and for two weeks her feet were tied together and her hands were bound behind her neck.

Her captors tortured her until they drew blood.

During her captivity, Catherine prayed to God in her local language. She discovered that her guard also spoke this language and that they were from the same tribe.

She believes the guard played a part in her being eventually released from the camp.

Following her release Catherine’s mother-in-law nursed her back to health – and three years later she was reunited with her children in a displacement camp run by the Catholic diocese of Maiduguri.

Catherine said: “Now that I am back with my children and mother-in-law, my joy knows no bounds.

“But my husband’s death – and having to watch it – will haunt me forever.”

Catherine has had six months of physiotherapy but has still not fully regained the use of her hands.

In north-east Nigeria, ACN has prioritised emergency aid for people caught up in Boko Haram atrocities, as well as pastoral help.

 

_____________

Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.

Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.

Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West.

The Penitential Season of Lent

By | News

Lent, a time for Repentance

Repentance is turning away from sin and back to God. Usually, this includes some form of penance, to express our sorrow and desire to renew our lives (c.f. Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez. 18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38).

Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). The general law of penance given by the Church, is therefore an expression of the law of God for us.

The Church for her part has specified certain forms of penance, both to ensure that her members will do something, as required by Divine will, while making it easy for them to fulfil their obligation. The 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics [Eastern Rite Catholics have their own penitential practices given in the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches].

  • Canon 919: One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.
  • Canon 1250: All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.
  • Canon 1251: Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Canon 1252: All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.
  • Canon 1253: It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

Those who are excused from fasting or abstinence

Besides those outside the age limits, those not of good mental health, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual labourers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving offense to their host, and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements, Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modelled after abstinence and fasting. A person could, for example, multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives). Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat. Similarly, one could multiply the number of days that one fasted. The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church’s law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys – chocolates, soft drinks, smoking, and so on. This is left to the individual.

Jesus reminds us to: “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven” (c.f. Matthew 6:1-6,16-18). We should therefore never seek our vainglory, but do everything out of genuine love of God and our neighbour.

 

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned

(c.f. Psalm 50(51):3-6,12-14,17)

EPIPHANY SPECIAL COLLECTION FOR PERSECUTED CHURCHES

By | News

£ 2,775.47

was collected this year on the Epiphany of our Lord.

It has been sent to ‘ACN (UK)’ to aid the persecuted Catholics in Nigeria.

You can learn more about the terrible situation there in the pamphlet below from ACN (UK) and in the weblinks provided.

 

THANKYOU FOR YOUR KIND GENEROSITY

TO OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN NEED!

Click here for the Persecuted Church in Nigeria.

Click here fo the latest news from ACN (UK) on Nigeria.

 

 

VATICAN MEETING: “THE PROTECTION OF MINORS IN THE CHURCH”

By | News

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
AT THE END OF THE
EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

For all the speeches and documents of the Meeting, click here for the Holy See’s website

Sala Regia

Sunday, 24 February 2019

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As I thank the Lord who has accompanied us during these days, I would like to thank all of you for the ecclesial spirit and concrete commitment that you have so generously demonstrated.

Our work has made us realize once again that the gravity of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors is, and historically has been, a widespread phenomenon in all cultures and societies. Only in relatively recent times has it become the subject of systematic research, thanks to changes in public opinion regarding a problem that was previously considered taboo; everyone knew of its presence yet no one spoke of it. I am reminded too of the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures, of sacrificing human beings – frequently children – in pagan rites. Yet even today, the statistics available on the sexual abuse of minors drawn up by various national and international organizations and agencies (the WHO, UNICEF, INTERPOL, EUROPOL and others) do not represent the real extent of the phenomenon, which is often underestimated, mainly because many cases of the sexual abuse of minors go unreported,[1] particularly the great number committed within families.

Rarely, in fact, do victims speak out and seek help.[2] Behind this reluctance there can be shame, confusion, fear of reprisal, various forms of guilt, distrust of institutions, forms of cultural and social conditioning, but also lack of information about services and facilities that can help. Anguish tragically leads to bitterness, even suicide, or at times to seek revenge by doing the same thing. The one thing certain is that millions of children in the world are victims of exploitation and of sexual abuse.

It would be important here to cite the overall data – in my opinion still partial – on the global level,[3] then from Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa and Oceania, in order to give an idea of the gravity and the extent of this plague in our societies.[4] To avoid needless quibbling, I would point out from the start that the mention of specific countries is purely for the sake of citing the statistical data provided by the aforementioned reports.

The first truth that emerges from the data at hand is that those who perpetrate abuse, that is acts of physical, sexual or emotional violence, are primarily parents, relatives, husbands of child brides, coaches and teachers. Furthermore, according to the UNICEF data of 2017 regarding 28 countries throughout the world, 9 out of every 10 girls who have had forced sexual relations reveal that they were victims of someone they knew or who was close to their family.

According to official data of the American government, in the United States over 700,000 children each year are victims of acts of violence and mistreatment. According to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), 1 out of every 10 children experiences sexual abuse. In Europe, 18 million children are victims of sexual abuse.[5]

If we take Italy as an example, the 2016 Telefono Azzurro Report states that 68.9% of abuses take place within the home of the minor.[6]

Acts of violence take place not only in the home, but also in neighbourhoods, schools, athletic facilities[7] and, sadly, also in church settings.

Research conducted in recent years on the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors also shows that the development of the web and of the communications media have contributed to a significant increase in cases of abuse and acts of violence perpetrated online. Pornography is rapidly spreading worldwide through the net. The scourge of pornography has expanded to an alarming degree, causing psychological harm and damaging relations between men and women, and between adults and children. It is a phenomenon in constant growth. Tragically, a considerable part of pornographic production has to do with minors, who are thus gravely violated in their dignity. The studies in this field – it is sad -document that it is happening in ever more horrible and violent ways, even to the point of acts of abuse against minors being commissioned and viewed live over the net.[8]

Here I would mention the World Congress held in Rome on the theme of child dignity in the digital era, as well as the first Forum of the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities held on the same theme in Abu Dhabi last November.

Another scourge is sexual tourism. According to 2017 data provided by the World Tourism Organization, each year 3 million people throughout the world travel in order to have sexual relations with a minor.[9] Significantly, the perpetrators of these crimes in most cases do not even realize that they are committing a criminal offence.

We are thus facing a universal problem, tragically present almost everywhere and affecting everyone. Yet we need to be clear, that while gravely affecting our societies as a whole,[10] this evil is in no way less monstrous when it takes place within the Church.

The brutality of this worldwide phenomenon becomes all the more grave and scandalous in the Church, for it is utterly incompatible with her moral authority and ethical credibility. Consecrated persons, chosen by God to guide souls to salvation, let themselves be dominated by their human frailty or sickness and thus become tools of Satan. In abuse, we see the hand of the evil that does not spare even the innocence of children. No explanations suffice for these abuses involving children. We need to recognize with humility and courage that we stand face to face with the mystery of evil, which strikes most violently against the most vulnerable, for they are an image of Jesus. For this reason, the Church has now become increasingly aware of the need not only to curb the gravest cases of abuse by disciplinary measures and civil and canonical processes, but also to decisively confront the phenomenon both inside and outside the Church. She feels called to combat this evil that strikes at the very heart of her mission, which is to preach the Gospel to the little ones and to protect them from ravenous wolves.

Here again I would state clearly: if in the Church there should emerge even a single case of abuse – which already in itself represents an atrocity – that case will be faced with the utmost seriousness. Brothers and Sisters: in people’s justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons. The echo of the silent cry of the little ones who, instead of finding in them fathers and spiritual guides encountered tormentors, will shake hearts dulled by hypocrisy and by power. It is our duty to pay close heed to this silent, choked cry.

It is difficult to grasp the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors without considering power, since it is always the result of an abuse of power, an exploitation of the inferiority and vulnerability of the abused, which makes possible the manipulation of their conscience and of their psychological and physical weakness. The abuse of power is likewise present in the other forms of abuse affecting almost 85,000,000 children, forgotten by everyone: child soldiers, child prostitutes, starving children, children kidnapped and often victimized by the horrid commerce of human organs or enslaved, child victims of war, refugee children, aborted children and so many others.

Before all this cruelty, all this idolatrous sacrifice of children to the god of power, money, pride and arrogance, empirical explanations alone are not sufficient. They fail to make us grasp the breadth and depth of this tragedy. Here once again we see the limitations of a purely positivistic approach. It can provide us with a true explanation helpful for taking necessary measures, but it is incapable of giving us a meaning. Today we need both explanation and meaning. Explanation will help us greatly in the operative sphere, but will take us only halfway.

So what would be the existential “meaning” of this criminal phenomenon? In the light of its human breadth and depth, it is none other than the present-day manifestation of the spirit of evil. If we fail to take account of this dimension, we will remain far from the truth and lack real solutions.

Brothers and sisters, today we find ourselves before a manifestation of brazen, aggressive and destructive evil. Behind and within, there is the spirit of evil, which in its pride and in its arrogance considers itself the Lord of the world[11] and thinks that it has triumphed. I would like to say this to you with the authority of a brother and a father, certainly a small one and a sinner, but who is the pastor of the Church that presides in charity: in these painful cases, I see the hand of evil that does not spare even the innocence of the little ones. And this leads me to think of the example of Herod who, driven by fear of losing his power, ordered the slaughter of all the children of Bethlehem.[12] Behind this there is satan.

Just as we must take every practical measure that common sense, the sciences and society offer us, neither must we lose sight of this reality; we need to take up the spiritual means that the Lord himself teaches us: humiliation, self-accusation, prayer and penance. This is the only way to overcome the spirit of evil. It is how Jesus himself overcame it.[13]

The Church’s aim will thus be to hear, watch over, protect and care for abused, exploited and forgotten children, wherever they are. To achieve that goal, the Church must rise above the ideological disputes and journalistic practices that often exploit, for various interests, the very tragedy experienced by the little ones.

The time has come, then, to work together to eradicate this evil from the body of our humanity by adopting every necessary measure already in force on the international level and ecclesial levels. The time has come to find a correct equilibrium of all values in play and to provide uniform directives for the Church, avoiding the two extremes of a “justicialism” provoked by guilt for past errors and media pressure, and a defensiveness that fails to confront the causes and effects of these grave crimes.

In this context, I would mention the “best practices” formulated under the guidance of the World Health Organization[14] by a group of ten international bodies that developed and approved a packet of measures called INSPIRE: Seven Strategies for Ending Violence against Children.[15]

With the help of these guidelines, the work carried out in recent years by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the contributions made by this Meeting, the Church, in developing her legislation, will concentrate on the following aspects:

1. The protection of children. The primary goal of every measure must be to protect the little ones and prevent them from falling victim to any form of psychological and physical abuse. Consequently, a change of mentality is needed to combat a defensive and reactive approach to protecting the institution and to pursue, wholeheartedly and decisively, the good of the community by giving priority to the victims of abuse in every sense. We must keep ever before us the innocent faces of the little ones, remembering the words of the Master: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals! For it is necessary that scandals come, but woe to the man by whom the scandal comes! (Mt 18:6-7).

2. Impeccable seriousness. Here I would reaffirm that “the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case” (Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2018). She is convinced that “the sins and crimes of consecrated persons are further tainted by infidelity and shame; they disfigure the countenance of the Church and undermine her credibility. The Church herself, with her faithful children, is also a victim of these acts of infidelity and these real sins of “peculation” (ibid.).

3. Genuine purification. Notwithstanding the measures already taken and the progress made in the area of preventing abuse, there is need for a constantly renewed commitment to the holiness of pastors, whose conformity to Christ the Good Shepherd is a right of the People of God. The Church thus restates “her firm resolve to pursue unstintingly a path of purification, questioning how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries… An effort will be made to make past mistakes opportunities for eliminating this scourge, not only from the body of the Church but also from that of society” (ibid.). The holy fear of God leads us to accuse ourselves – as individuals and as an institution – and to make up for our failures. Self-accusation is the beginning of wisdom and bound to the holy fear of God: learning how to accuse ourselves, as individuals, as institutions, as a society. For we must not fall into the trap of blaming others, which is a step towards the “alibi” that separates us from reality.

4. Formation. In other words, requiring criteria for the selection and training of candidates to the priesthood that are not simply negative, concerned above all with excluding problematic personalities, but also positive, providing a balanced process of formation for suitable candidates, fostering holiness and the virtue of chastity. Saint Paul VI, in his encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, wrote that “the life of the celibate priest, which engages the whole man so totally and so sensitively, excludes those of insufficient physical, psychic and moral qualifications. Nor should anyone pretend that grace supplies for the defects of nature in such a man” (No. 64).

5. Strengthening and reviewing guidelines by Episcopal Conferences. In other words, reaffirming the need for bishops to be united in the application of parameters that serve as rules and not simply indications. Rules, not simply indications. No abuse should ever be covered up (as was often the case in the past) or not taken sufficiently seriously, since the covering up of abuses favours the spread of evil and adds a further level of scandal. Also and in particular, developing new and effective approaches for prevention in all institutions and in every sphere of ecclesial activity.

6. Accompaniment of those who have been abused. The evil that they have experienced leaves them with indelible wounds that also manifest themselves in resentment and a tendency to self-destruction. The Church thus has the duty to provide them with all the support they need, by availing herself of experts in this field. Listening, let me even put it this way: “wasting time” in listening. Listening heals the hurting person, and likewise heals us of our egoism, aloofness and lack of concern, of the attitude shown by the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

7. The digital world. The protection of minors must take into account the new forms of sexual abuse and abuse of all kinds that threaten minors in the settings in which they live and through the new devices that they use. Seminarians, priests, men and women religious, pastoral agents, indeed everyone, must be aware that the digital world and the use of its devices often has a deeper effect than we may think. Here there is a need to encourage countries and authorities to apply every measure needed to contain those websites that threaten human dignity, the dignity of women and particularly that of children. Brothers and Sisters: crime does not enjoy the right to freedom. There is an absolute need to combat these abominations with utter determination, to be vigilant and to make every effort to keep the development of young people from being troubled or disrupted by an uncontrolled access to pornography, which will leave deep scars on their minds and hearts. We must ensure that young men and women, particularly seminarians and clergy, are not enslaved to addictions based on the exploitation and criminal abuse of the innocent and their pictures, and contempt for the dignity of women and of the human person. Here mention should be made of the new norms on graviora delicta approved by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, which included as a new species of crime “the acquisition, possession or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors… by whatever means or using whatever technology”. The text speaks of minors “under the age of fourteen”. We now consider that this age limit should be raised in order to expand the protection of minors and to bring out the gravity of these deeds.

8. Sexual tourism. The conduct, the way of looking at others, the very heart of Jesus’ disciples and servants must always acknowledge the image of God in each human creature, beginning with the most innocent. It is only by drawing from this radical respect for the dignity of others that we will be able to defend them from the pervasive power of violence, exploitation, abuse and corruption, and serve them in a credible way in their integral human and spiritual growth, in the encounter with others and with God. Combatting sexual tourism demands that it be outlawed, but also that the victims of this criminal phenomenon be given support and helped to be reinserted in society. The ecclesial communities are called to strengthen their pastoral care of persons exploited by sexual tourism. Among these, those who are most vulnerable and in need of particular help are certainly women, minors and children; these last however need special forms of protection and attention. Government authorities should make this a priority and act with urgency to combat the trafficking and economic exploitation of children. To this end it is important to coordinate the efforts being made at every level of society and to cooperate closely with international organizations so as to achieve a juridical framework capable of protecting children from sexual exploitation in tourism and of ensuring the legal prosecution of offenders.[16]

Allow me now to offer a heartfelt word of thanks to all those priests and consecrated persons who serve the Lord faithfully and totally, and who feel themselves dishonoured and discredited by the shameful conduct of some of their confreres. All of us – the Church, consecrated persons, the People of God, and even God himself – bear the effects of their infidelity. In the name of the whole Church, I thank the vast majority of priests who are not only faithful to their celibacy, but spend themselves in a ministry today made even more difficult by the scandals of few (but always too many) of their confreres. I also thank the faithful who are well aware of the goodness of their pastors and who continue to pray for them and to support them.

Finally, I would like to stress the important need to turn this evil into an opportunity for purification. Let us look to the example of Edith Stein – Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – with the certainty that “in the darkest night, the greatest prophets and saints rise up. Still, the life-giving stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Surely, the decisive events of history of the world have been essentially influenced by souls about whom the history books remain silent. And those souls that we must thank for the decisive events in our personal lives is something that we will know only on that day when all that which is hidden will be brought to light”. The holy, faithful People of God, in its daily silence, in many forms and ways continues to demonstrate and attest with “stubborn” hope that the Lord never abandons but sustains the constant and, in so many cases, painful devotion of his children. The holy and patient, faithful People of God, borne up and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, is the best face of the prophetic Church which puts her Lord at the centre in daily giving of herself. It will be precisely this holy People of God to liberate us from the plague of clericalism, which is the fertile ground for all these disgraces.

The best results and the most effective resolution that we can offer to the victims, to the People of Holy Mother Church and to the entire world, are the commitment to personal and collective conversion, the humility of learning, listening, assisting and protecting the most vulnerable.

I make a heartfelt appeal for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors both sexually and in other areas, on the part of all authorities and individuals, for we are dealing with abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth: this is demanded by all the many victims hidden in families and in the various settings of our societies.

 


[1] Cf. MARIA ISABEL MARTÍNEZ PÉREZ, Abusos sexuales en niños y adolescentes, ed. Criminología y Justicia, 2012, according to which only 2% of cases are reported, especially when the abuse has taken place in the home. She sets the number of victims of paedophilia in our society at between 15% and 20%. Only 50% of children reveal the abuses they have suffered, and of these cases only 15% are actually reported. Only 5% end up going to trial.

[2] One out of three mentions the fact to no one (2017 data compiled by the non-profit organization THORN).

[3]On the global level: in 2017 the World Health Organization estimated that up to 1 billion minors between 2 and 17 years of age have experienced acts of violence or physical, emotional or sexual neglect. Sexual abuse (ranging from groping to rape), according to some 2014 UNICEF estimates, would affect 120 million girls, who are the greatest number of victims. In 2017, UNICEF reported that in 38 of the world’s low to middle income countries, almost 17 million adult women admitted having had a forced sexual relation in childhood.

Europe: in 2013, the World Health Organization estimated over 18 million abuses. Of these, 13.4% were girls, while 5.7% were boys. According to UNICEF, in 28 European countries, about 2.5 million young women reported having experienced sexual abuse with or without physical contact prior to 15 years of age (data released in 2017). In addition, 44 million (equivalent to 22.9%) were victims of physical violence, while 55 million (29.6%) were victims of psychological violence. Not only this: in 2017, the INTERPOL Report on the sexual exploitation of minors led to the identification of 14,289 victims in 54 European countries. With regard to Italy, in 2017 CESVI estimated that 6 million children experienced mistreatment. Furthermore, according to data provided by Telefono Azzurro, in the calendar year 2017, 98 cases of sexual abuse and pedophilia were handled by the Servizio 114 Emergenza Infanzia, equivalent to about 7.5% of the total cases handled by that service. 65% of the minors seeking help were female victims and over 40% were under 11 years of age.

Asia: in India, in the decade 2001-2011, the Asian Centre for Human Rights reported a total of 48,338 cases of the rape of minors, with an increase equivalent to 336% over that period: the 2,113 cases in 2001 rose to 7,112 cases in 2011.

The Americas: in the United States, official government data state that more than 700,000 children each year are victims of violence and mistreatment. According to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), 1 out of every 10 children experiences sexual abuse.

Africa: in South Africa, the results of a study conducted by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention of the University of Cape Town showed in 2016 that 1 out of 3 South African young people, male or female, risks being sexually abused before the age of 17. According to the study, the first of its kind on a national scale in South Africa, 784,967 young people between 15 and 17 years of age have already experienced sexual abuse. The victims in this case are for the most part male youths. Not even a third of them reported the violence to the authorities. In other African countries, cases of sexual abuse of minors are part of the wider context of acts of violence linked to the conflicts affecting the continent and are thus difficult to quantify. The phenomenon is also closely linked to the widespread practice of underage marriages in various African nations, as elsewhere.

Oceania: in Australia, according to data issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in February 2018 and covering the years 2015-2017, one out of six women (16%, i.e., 1.5 million) reported experiencing physical and/or sexual abuse prior to 15 years of age, and one out of nine men (11%, i.e., 992,000) reported having experienced this abuse when they were children. Also, in 2015-2016, around 450,000 children were the object of child protection measures, and 55,600 minors were removed from their homes in order to remedy abuses they had suffered and to prevent others. Finally, one must not forget the risks to which native minors are exposed: again, according to AIHW, in 2015-2016 indigenous children had a seven times greater probability of being abused or abandoned as compared with their non-indigenous contemporaries (cf. http://www.pbc2019.org/protection-of-minors/child-abuse-on-the-global-level).

[4] The data provided refer to sample counties selected on the basis of the reliability of available sources. The studies released by UNICEF on 30 countries confirm this fact: a small percentage of victims stated that they had asked for help.

[5] Cf.https://www.repubblica.it/salute/prevenzione/2016/05/12/news/maltrattamenti_sui_minori_tutti_gli_abusi-139630223.

[6] Specifically, those allegedly responsible for the difficulties experienced by a minor are, in 73.7% of the cases a parent (the mother in 44.2% and the father in 29.5%), a relative (3.3%), a friend (3.2%), an acquaintance (3%), a teacher (2.5%). The data show that only in a small percentage of cases (2.2%) is the person responsible an adult stranger. Cf. ibid.

[7] A 2011 English study carried out by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) found that 29% of those interviewed reported that they had experienced sexual molestation (physical and verbal) in sports centres.

[8] According to the 2017 data of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), every 7 minutes a web page sends pictures of sexually abused children. In 2017, 78,589 URLs were found to contain images of sexual abuse concentrated particularly in the Low Countries, followed by the United States, Canada, France and Russia. 55% of the victims were under 10 years of age, 86% were girls, 7% boys and 5% both.

[9] The most frequented destinations are Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, as well as Thailand and Cambodia. These have recently been joined by some countries of Africa and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the six countries from which the perpetrators of abuse mostly come are France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Italy. Not to be overlooked is the growing number of women who travel to developing countries in search of paid sex with minors: in total, they represent 10% of sexual tourists worldwide. Furthermore, according to a study by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism) International, between 2015 and 2016, 35% of paedophile sexual tourists were regular clients, while 65% were occasional clients (cf. https://www.osservatoriodiritti.it/2018/03/27/turismo-sessuale-minorile-nel-mondo-italia-ecpat).

[10] “For if this grave tragedy has involved some consecrated ministers, we may ask how deeply rooted it may be in our societies and in our families” (Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2018).

[11] Cf. R.H. BENSON, The Lord of the World, Dodd, Mead and Company, London, 1907.

[12] “Quare times, Herodes, quia audis Regem natum? Non venit ille ut te excludat, sed ut diabolum vincat. Sed tu haec non intelligens turbaris et saevis; et ut perdas unum quem quaeris, per tot infantium mortes efficeris crudelis… Necas parvulos corpore quia te necat timor in corde (SAINT QUODVULTDEUS, Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655).

[13] “Quemadmodum enim ille, effuso in scientiae lignum veneno suo, naturam gusto corruperat, sic et ipse dominicam carnem vorandam praesumens, deitatis in ea virtute corruptus interituque sublatus est” (SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR, Centuria 1, 8-3: PG 90, 1182-1186).

[14] (CDC: United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CRC: Convention on the Rights of the Child; End Violence Against Children: The Global Partnership; PAHO: Pan American Health Organization; PEPFAR: President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief; TfG: Together for Girls; UNICEF: United Nations Children’s Fund; UNODC: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; USAID: United States Agency for International Development; WHO: World Health Organization).

[15] Each letter of the word INSPIRE represents one of the strategies, and for the most part has shown to be preventively effectual against various types of violence, in addition to having benefits in areas such as mental health, education and the reduction of crime. The seven strategies are the following: Implementation and Enforcement of Laws (for example, avoiding violent discipline and limiting access to alcohol and firearms); Norms and Values that need changing (for example, those that condone sexual abuse against girls or aggressive behaviour among boys); Safe Environments (for example, identifying neighbourhood violence “hotspots” and dealing with local causes through policies that resolve problems and through other interventions); Parent and Caregiver Support (for example, by providing formation to parents for their children, and to new parents); Income and Economic Strengthening (such as microcredit and formation concerning equity in general); Response and Support Services (for example, ensuring that children exposed to violence can have access to effective emergency care and can receive adequate psychosocial support); Education and Life Skills (for example, ensuring that children attend school and equipping them with social skills).

[16] Cf. Final Document of the VI World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism, 27 July 2004.

 


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