CARDINAL MARC OUELLET
PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR BISHOPS
HOMILY FOR THE PENITENTIAL VIGIL
ON THE OCCASION OF THE SYMPOSIUM
“TOWARDS HEALING AND RENEWAL”
FEBRUARY 7, 2012
CHIESA SANT’IGNAZIO, [Gregorian University, Rome]
My venerable brother bishops and priests and my dear
brothers and sisters,
In the context of the reflection that is taking place during these
days of the Symposium “Towards Healing and Renewal”, we
remind ourselves that we are here this evening not only as
believers, but also as penitents.
The tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by
Christians, especially when done so by members of the clergy, is a
source of great shame and enormous scandal. It is a sin against
which Jesus himself lashed out: “It would be better for him if a
millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Lk.
17:2). Abuse is a crime, in fact, which causes an authentic
experience of death for the innocent victims, whom God alone can
truly raise to new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore,
with profound conviction and awareness of what we do, we turn to
and implore the Lord.
This gesture of purification involves the entire Church, and
each one of us - Bishops, Religious Superiors, educators, all
Christians - feels the pain of what has occurred. We ask that the
Spirit of God, who heals and radically renews all things, come
down upon us.
As members of the Church, we must have the courage to ask
humbly for God’s pardon, as well as for the forgiveness of His
“little ones” who have been wounded; we must remain close to
them on their road of suffering, seeking in every possible way to
heal and bind up their wounds following the example of the Good
Samaritan. The first step on this road is to listen to them carefully
and to believe their painful stories.
The road of renewal for the Church, who will continue to
educate people and establish proper structures to help prevent
similar crimes, must include the sentiment of “never again”. As
Blessed John Paul II said, “there is no place in the priesthood and
religious life for those who would harm the young” (Address of
Blessed Pope John Paul II to the Cardinals of the United States,
April 23, 2002, n. 3). It is intolerable that the abuse of children
would take place within the Church. Never again!
Sadly, we observe all too well that the sexual abuse of
children is found throughout modern society. It is our profound
hope that the Church’s commitment to address this great evil will
foster renewal among other communities and agencies in society
who have been affected by this tragedy.
In this new path, we Christians should be aware that only
faith can guarantee an authentic work of renewal in the Church:
faith understood as personal, as a true and life-giving relationship
of love with Jesus Christ. Mindful of our own lack of living faith,
we ask the Lord Jesus to restore us all and to lead us through the
agony of the cross towards the joy of the resurrection.
Sometimes the violence was committed by deeply disturbed
persons or by those who had themselves been abused. It was
necessary to take action concerning them and to prevent them from
continuing any form of ministry for which they were obviously not
suitable. This was not always done properly and, once again, we
apologize to the victims.
The Shepherds of the Church, having learned from this
terrible and humiliating experience, have a grave duty to take
responsibility in the discernment and acceptance of candidates who
seek to serve within the Church, most especially those seeking
Still shocked by these sad occurrences, we hope that this
Vigil liturgy helps us to view the horrible sins that took place
among the People of God in the light of salvation history, a story
which we have retraced together here tonight. It is a story that
speaks of our misery, of our repeated failures, but most of all of
God’s infinite mercy, of which we are always in need.
And so we entrust ourselves entirely to the powerful
intercession of the Son of God, who “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7)
in the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption, and who has
taken upon himself every evil, even this evil, destroying its power
so that it would not have the last word.
The Risen Christ, in fact, is the guarantee and the promise
that life triumphs over death; He is capable of bringing salvation to
As we continue with our prayer service, we pray, in the
words of Pope Benedict XVI, for a more profound appreciation of
our respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of our faith
in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water
that he offers us through his Church (cf. Pastoral Letter of Pope
Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland).
May the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who is
always at work in the world, descend and help us through the
prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, whose
powerful intercession sustains and guides us to be obedient and
receptive to divine love. Amen!
Marc Cardinal Ouellet
PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR BISHOPS