The clerical abuse scandals have caused everyone in the Catholic Church “pain and unbearable suffering”, Pope Francis said, but it also is a call to repentance and the renewal of the Church.
“Our humble repentance, which remains silent between our tears for the monstrosity of sin and the unfathomable greatness of God’s forgiveness, this, this humble repentance is the beginning of our holiness,” the Pope told priests from the Diocese of Rome.
Pope Francis’ annual Lenten meeting with the priests on March 7 began with a penitential prayer service and individual Confessions at the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.
In a long, impromptu talk on priesthood and forgiveness, the Pope acknowledged the clerical sexual abuse crisis and the particular way it had impacted priests.
“Sin disfigures us,” he said, and it is “humiliating” when “we or one of our brother priests or bishops falls into the bottomless abyss of vice, corruption or, worse still, of a crime that destroys the lives of others”, like the sexual abuse of minors does.
Pope Francis said he is convinced the abuse scandal is ultimately the work of the devil.
“Still, do not be discouraged,” he told the priests. “The Lord is purifying his bride (the Church) and is converting us all to himself. He is putting us to the test so that we would understand that, without him, we are dust.”
God is working “to restore the beauty of his bride, surprised in flagrant adultery”, the Pope said.