Catholic Church in Italy Holds 1st National Day of Prayer for Abuse Victims

The initiative is in response to Pope Francis’ 2016 invitation to bishops around the world to establish a day on which to pray for those subjected to sexual abuse.

Pope Francis has called for days of prayer worldwide.
Pope Francis has called for days of prayer worldwide. (photo: Kzenon / Shutterstock)

The Catholic Church in Italy held its first national day of prayer for victims and survivors of sexual abuse on Thursday.

Archbishop Lorenzo Ghizzoni of Ravenna-Cervia, president of the Italian bishops’ commission for the protection of minors, said that the day was an invitation “to prayer, to support the paths of human and spiritual recovery of victims and survivors, by whomever they have been injured, so severely, inside or outside the Church, for families and communities affected by grief for their loved ones.” 

Italy’s bishops’ conference distributed prayers and other documents on its website for dioceses and parishes to use at Mass or other prayer services.

The initiative is in response to Pope Francis’ 2016 invitation to bishops around the world to establish a day on which to pray for those subjected to sexual abuse.

The proposal for a “Universal Day of Prayer” was made to the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) by a survivor of clerical abuse.

According to a Nov. 17 press release from the PCPM, “in the experience of our members, victims/survivors have often expressed a desire for prayer as an important element in their healing process.”

Dioceses around Italy observed the day in different ways. In the Archdiocese of Milan, Archbishop Mario Delpini led Eucharistic adoration and celebrated Mass in the cathedral for the day of prayer on Nov. 18.

In Genoa, Archbishop Marco Tasca declared that the archdiocese would celebrate the day of prayer on Sunday, Nov. 21, with parishes praying a prayer written by the bishops’ conference.

The prayer begins: “Father, source of life, with humility and humiliation we surrender to you our shame and remorse for the suffering caused to the smallest and most vulnerable of humanity, and we ask your forgiveness.”

“Lord Jesus, Son who came to reveal the Father’s mercy, we entrust to you all those who have suffered abuses of power, spiritual and conscience, physical and sexual; may their wounds be healed by the balm of your and our compassion; may they find welcome and fraternal help; may their hearts be enveloped with tenderness and filled with hope.”

The Italian bishops chose Nov. 18 for the day because it corresponds with the European Day on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, president of the PCPM, sent a message marking the European day.

“We know that child sex abuse is a global, human problem,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote. “The World Health Organization says that one in five women, and one in 13 men, report experiencing sexual abuse before their 18th birthday; and that at least 60% of child sexual-abuse victims/survivors never disclose their abuse.”

“The most recent data that we have received on the scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is no less grim,” he said. 

“In France, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (CIASE) estimated 216,000 children suffered sexual abuse in the Church from in the period from 1950 to 2020. In Australia, 40% of the child sexual abuse that took place in the period under review of the Royal Commission of Inquiry occurred in an area related to the Catholic Church.”

“These are astounding statistics,” Cardinal O’Malley commented. “But we cannot allow our reaction to them to obscure their purpose: to assess the measures taken by the Church to treat this scourge; and to make all useful recommendations for the transformation of a failed system based on a quantitative and qualitative level.”

“We cannot repair what we do not recognize.  We cannot restore a broken trust if we do not address the heart of the matter. This requires honest investigation, independent inquiry and informed action,” the cardinal added.

He said that the Church, civil society and academia could learn from each other to help shape a society that puts “the protection of children among the highest priorities.”

The cardinal said that, in solidarity with Pope Francis’ initiative for a universal day of prayer for abuse survivors, he would be walking at sunrise on Nov. 18. 

Cardinal O’Malley, who was attending the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore, said that he would walk with others “in silent communion of prayer with adult survivors of child sexual abuse, their advocates, brother bishops, faith leaders of many denominations and representatives of civil society.”

He said, “We will gather as a global collective in recognition of our commitment — religions and civil society — to walk with survivors on a lifelong journey of healing for us all.”