WASHINGTON — In light of Pope Francis’ call to pray for the victims of sexual abuse, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will join in a Worldwide Day of Prayer for Sexual Abuse Survivors, highlighting the importance of healing and noting the progress the Church has made over the years.
“With a pastor’s heart, Pope Francis renewed the call of the universal Church to pray for, help heal and proactively protect children from the terrible sin of sexual abuse,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, the USCCB’s president, in a Sept. 16 statement.
“This universal expression of healing and sorrow, joined by our brothers and sisters around the world, will be a powerful reminder that no survivor should walk the path toward healing alone,” he said.
The Worldwide Day of Prayer was originally suggested at the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) Plenary Assembly by a survivor of clerical child sexual abuse.
Pope Francis approved the idea, and encouraged each national episcopal conference to hold the day of prayer on a suitable date within each prospective country. Australia already held their prayer day on Sept. 11, and South Africa announced a prayer weekend from Dec. 2-4. The Philippines are planning to determine a date in the near future.
The date has not yet been set for the U.S., but the administrative committee for the USCCB began discussing the day of prayer for abuse victims last week. Archbishop Kurtz hopes that the day of prayer will bring healing to wounded victims and grace to prevent future abuses.
“For whenever we have failed to protect our children from predators, we beg God’s forgiveness. For wherever we have failed to support victims of sexual abuse, we beg their forgiveness,” Archbishop Kurtz said.
The Kentucky archbishop also underscored the progress the Church has made to fight sexual abuse, pointing to diocesan programs such as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, saying “we have learned from the pain of such moments to motivate a rigorous prevention program.”
In addition, the Church has also made strides in preventing abuse by pursuing a proactive approach in reforming church law. The Church has also removed clergy who have committed abuses and opened meetings between victims and the Holy Father.
Archbishop Kurtz noted that many parishes in the United States have benefited from past prayer days and reconciliation services, saying that the faithful should always pray for abuse survivors and for prevention in the future.
“Let us pray that we may never become complacent in our prayer and protection,” Archbishop Kurtz stated.
“If you have been the victim of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, notify law enforcement and please know there is a victim assistance coordinator in every U.S. diocese ready to help. They are trained and ready to receive your call.”