VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2010 (VIS) – Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has written a letter to all the priests of the world for the end of the Year for Priests, which is due to conclude on 11 June, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Extracts from the English-language version of the letter, dated 12 April, are given below.
“The Year for Priests brings great joy to the Church and she thanks the Lord for having inspired the Holy Father to announce it”.
“It is true that, albeit proportionately small in number, some priests have committed horrible and most serious crimes of sexual abuse upon minors, deeds that we must condemn and rebuke in an absolute and uncompromising manner. Those individuals must answer for their actions before God and before tribunals, including the civil courts. Nevertheless, we also pray that they might achieve spiritual conversion and receive pardon from God. The Church, for her part, is determined neither to hide nor to minimise such crimes. Above all we are on the side of the victims and want to support their recovery and their offended rights.
“On the other hand, it is absolutely unacceptable to use the crimes of the few in order to sully the entire ecclesial body of priests. Those who do so commit a profound injustice. In the course the Year for Priests, the Church seeks to say this to human society. Anyone possessed of common sense and good will knows it to be the truth”.
“Dear priests, … the Church loves you, admires you and respects you. You are, moreover, a joy for Catholic people throughout the world who welcome you and support you, especially in these times of suffering”.
“The Pope, dear priests, invites you from the heart to come to Rome from every part of the world for the conclusion of the Year for Priests, on the 9, 10 and 11 June next. … The Pope wants to confirm the priests of the Church. Their presence in large numbers in St. Peter’s Square will be a proactive and responsible way for priests to show themselves ready and un-intimidated for the service of the humanity entrusted to them by Jesus Christ”.
“This means offering our beloved Pope Benedict XVI all our solidarity, support, trust, and unconditional communion, in the face of the frequent attacks currently being directed at him with regard to decisions he made concerning clerics involved in crimes of the sexual abuse of minors. The accusations directed at aim are clearly unjust, and it has been shown that no-one has done as much as Benedict XVI to condemn and combat such crimes. Thus, large numbers of priests in the square with him will be a strong signal of our rejection of the unjust attacks of which he is victim. Come, then, to show public support for the Holy Father.
“The end of the Year for Priests will not be, properly speaking, a conclusion, but a new beginning. We, the People of God and its shepherds, want to thank the Lord for this privileged period of prayer and reflection on the priesthood. At the same time we want to be alert to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us. Meanwhile we will return to the exercise of our mission in the Church and in the world with renewed joy and with the conviction that God, the Lord of history, remains with us, both in crises and in new times”.