“Dear Brothers, good morning!

In light of the scourge of sexual abuse perpetrated by ecclesiastics to the great harm of minors, I wanted to consult you, Patriarchs, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Religious Superiors and Leaders, so that together we might listen to the Holy Spirit and, in docility to his guidance, hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice. In this meeting, we sense the weight of the pastoral and ecclesial responsibility .. The holy People of God looks to us, and expects from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken. We need to be concrete. So we begin this process armed with faith and a spirit of great parrhesia, courage and concreteness.. Finally, I ask the Holy Spirit to sustain us throughout these days, and to help us to turn this evil into an opportunity for awareness and purification. May the Virgin Mary enlighten us as we seek to heal the grave wounds that the scandal of paedophilia has caused, both in the little ones and in believers. Thank you.”

Pope Francis

When our Holy Father was elected, he chose the name ‘Francis’ – a very clear indication of what he intended his papacy to consist of, since he was taking the name of a great Saint who was renowned for his mission to renew the Church, Francis of Assissi.

Today at the Vatican, the Holy Father continues that mission of renewal from within, by hosting the three day meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church.

The entire world is well aware of the terrible crisis which the Church finds herself in at this time, and which seems interminable. This conference, which will be attended by Bishops from across the world, will look at ways of ensuring that the hierarchy of the Church are consistent in following the rules and guidelines laid down, and in demanding that all the dioceses in every area do similarly. Much will be written elsewhere about the content of this conference, the speeches given by the Bishops, and the reaction to these.

I write of the conference here with one simple aim – to ask all to pray for the Holy Father and the Bishops, that from this terrible darkness, some good will come. And in this way, at the broader level, that the Church might regain some of the moral authority and integrity which have been so terribly eroded over the course of the past years.

Pope Francis has explicitly asked us to pray for this intention. And as Catholics, we are obliged to do as he asks, for he is the Father of the Church, our Shepherd.

We are also obliged in charity, for the work and mission of the Church concerns every single one of us.

And all who bear the name Catholic are called to pray for the Church upon earth, as well as for all those to whom the Church ministers.

Some may choose simply to criticise and object, and that is their choice; but prayer and sacrifice would be preferable. Prayer is always powerful when offered by another – but when offered by one who gives it out of duty and charity rather than desire, it takes on a particular quality which touches the Heart of the Lord.

And so to any who do not feel inclined to pray – I direct these words especially to you; please pray anyway, for the Church needs your prayers. The Lord, Who is the Church, needs your prayers – they will achieve much good and draw down from Heaven the graces needed for the purification, the sanctification and the renewal of the Church.

Our Shepherd, our Holy Father, has asked that we pray to the Holy Spirit, to obtain His light and His grace, that the wounds disfiguring the Church may be healed; and to the Blessed Virgin, She who is the Mother of the Church.

As Catholics, let us respond generously to his call.