Don't Lose Hope, Pope says to Abuse Victims

Pope Benedict XVI issued an apology on Saturday saying that he is "truly sorry" for the pain and suffering caused to victims of a 30-year sex abuse scandal within the Irish Church, while at the same time asking the abused to hold onto their faith and to seek reconciliation with the Catholic Church.

"You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry," Benedict wrote to the victims. "I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated."

"It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel."

"At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope," he continued. "It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church."

"I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a
Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ's infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace."

Benedict's letter follows a historic meeting between the Pope and 24 Irish clergy members last month, which resulted in a pledge from the church to partner with local authorities in ensuring child safety within its premises.

Despite such efforts from the church, however, those affected by the scandal have seemed little moved.

Andrew Madden, who was victimized by the scandal in the 1970's, told the New York Times on Saturday that it requires "a certain level of arrogance" for church leaders to connive in sexual abuse by the priesthood "and then put yourself forward as part of the healing process."

Madden was also outraged that the Pope failed to mention disciplinary actions for any of the clergy members involved in the Irish Church, including Cardinal Brady, the Catholic primate of all Ireland.

"Cardinal Brady and other bishops should resign or else be removed by the pope for their part in hiding abuses by clerics under their authority," Madden said.

One of the largest dishonors in the history of the Catholic Church, the sex-abuse scandal was uncovered last summer by a series of investigations including the Murphy report, which documented decades of unpunished abuse with the Dublin Archdiocese.

The 720-page report revealed hundreds of instances of abuse within the church between 1975 and 2004.

Four bishops mentioned in the report, submitted their resignations shortly after the document's November release, two of them on Christmas Day.

One bishop, Martin Drennan, however, has maintained that he did nothing wrong.

While silent on whether any clergy will be removed, Benedict mentioned in his letter that the priests involved in the scandal had "betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents" and that they must "answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals."

"Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions," Benedict said. "Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life."

"I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow," he continued. :Sincere repentance opens the door to God's forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions."

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