Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Tears in His Eyes," Pope Meets Victims

And so, again, it happened: Pope Benedict met with victims of clergy sex-abuse this afternoon, Malta time, in a 35-minute encounter described by the Vatican spokesman as "intense, yet serene."

With the pontiff said to have had "tears in his eyes" during the encounter -- the third such meeting of his pontificate -- Benedict pledged that the church would do "all in its power" to protect the young, and seek justice and healing for those who've been abused.

One of the eight survivors told reporters afterward that he had "made peace with the church" as a result of the session, held (per usual) in the chapel of the island's Nunciature. Another said he "admire[d] the Pope for his courage in meeting us. He was embarrassed by the failings of others."

Claiming abuse by four priests in an orphanage in their boyhoods, the men said previously that they would've been ejected from the home if they resisted.

While the Pope made no direct reference to the recent waves of revelations in his homily this morning at an open-air Mass in the island's Floriana neighborhood, the text did include the following passage:
Our first reading at Mass today is one that I know you love to hear, the account of Paul’s shipwreck on the coast of Malta, and his warm reception by the people of these islands. Notice how the crew of the ship, in order to survive, were forced to throw overboard the cargo, the ship’s tackle, even the wheat which was their only sustenance. Paul urged them to place their trust in God alone, while the ship was tossed to and fro upon the waves. We too must place our trust in him alone. It is tempting to think that today’s advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Only he can protect us from harm, only he can guide us through the storms of life, only he can bring us to a safe haven, as he did for Paul and his companions adrift off the coast of Malta. They did as Paul urged them to do, and so it was “that they all escaped safely to the land” (Acts 27:44).

More than any of the cargo we might carry with us – in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology – it is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfilment. And he calls us to a relationship of love. Notice the question that he put three times to Peter on the shore of the lake: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” On the basis of Peter’s affirmative response, Jesus assigns him a task – the task of feeding his flock. Here we see the basis of all pastoral ministry in the Church. It is our love for the Lord that must inform every aspect of our preaching and teaching, our celebration of the sacraments, and our care for the people of God. It is our love for the Lord that moves us to love those whom he loves, and to accept gladly the task of communicating his love to those we serve. During our Lord’s Passion, Peter denied him three times. Now, after the Resurrection, Jesus invites him three times to avow his love, in this way offering him healing and forgiveness and at the same time entrusting him with his mission. The miraculous catch of fish underlined the apostles’ dependence on God for the success of their earthly projects. The dialogue between Peter and Jesus underlined the need for divine mercy in order to heal their spiritual wounds, the wounds of sin. In every area of our lives we need the help of God’s grace. With him, we can do all things: without him we can do nothing.
After an encounter with Malta's young -- an invariable feature of Benedict's visits -- the pontiff will depart for Rome.

PHOTO: Reuters