Francis posted a video message to the bishops of central and eastern Europe who are meeting in Poland from Sunday for a four-day conference on child protection organized by the bishops’ conference and the Vatican advisory commission for the child protection.
The location is important, given that a dozen current and retired Polish bishops have been sanctioned by the Vatican in recent months for their repeated failure to listen to the victims and take action to sanction the priests who have harmed them. raped and assaulted.
“It is only by facing the truth of this cruel behavior and humbly seeking forgiveness from the victims and survivors that the church can once again be seen and trusted as a place of welcome and safety for those who need it, ”François said.
He said that the bishops in particular must be the first to listen to the victims, not the last, and must be at their service “seeing them as companions and protagonists of a common future”.
Video: Pope Francis celebrates mass in Slovakia
Victims have long said they were treated as enemies of the church when they reported their abuse, accused of scandalizing or extorting money from the hierarchy, though many have often said that they simply came forward to prevent a predatory priest from harming others. Francis, and before him Benedict XVI, denounced what they called the misplaced concern of the hierarchy for the reputation of the church on the needs of the victims.
In the video message, Francis said the words of sadness need to be converted into concrete action for reform to prevent abuse and listen to victims, saying “these important discussions really touch the future of the church.”
Francis has passed new church legislation in an attempt to hold bishops accountable for covering up abuse, responding to decades of complaints from victims and their lawyers that the Vatican has turned a blind eye to bishops who have failed protected their herds.
The Argentine Jesuit himself has had a steep learning curve on the matter, having botched a notorious case of abuse and cover-up in Chile. Francis did an about-face and apologized, and summoned the presidents of each national episcopal conference in 2019 to try to sensitize them to the importance of the issue to the credibility of the church.