Renewal at all levels

Pope Benedict XVI. has called for a "profound renewal of the Church at all levels" in light of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. The care for the victims must be a main concern of the Catholic Church, he said.

In addition, it is necessary to promote an "effective culture of protective measures and victim support," the head stressed on Monday evening in his greeting at the opening of the three-day international congress of the Pontifical Gregorian University on abuse. The pope called the protection of victims the top priority in dealing with the abuses.

Abuse in the church requires a "vigorous culture of effective protection and support for victims," according to the greeting address to conference participants signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone. In the letter, Benedict expressed the hope that the symposium would contribute to finding a response to the "tragedy of child abuse" that meets Christian standards.

The meeting will be attended by 220 representatives of 110 national bishops' conferences and 34 religious superiors. From Germany, the abuse commissioner of the Bishops' Conference, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich are present. The event is titled "Toward healing and renewal".

Cooperation with authorities called for
Cardinal Levada called on bishops' conferences worldwide to be more proactive in creating guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse. He said many conferences have already ied their own norms, such as the U.S., Germany, France, South Africa and Australia. However, they often arose in response to the media's exposure of scandalous cases, Levada said.

The church must cooperate with civil authorities in the investigation, stressed the cardinal, whose congregation is also responsible for prosecuting cases under canon law. However, the secrecy of confessions must remain inviolable. The pastoral task of the Church is to listen to the victims and to accompany them. Benedict XVI gave a personal example. through his meetings with victims of abuse during various trips abroad.

Adequate formation of future priest
To protect minors, the church must train its employees and make them more aware of the ie, said Levada. At the same time, it must educate parents and children about sexual abuse in society. The cardinal called for adequate training of future priests. Particular attention should be paid to the transfer of candidates for the priesthood to other dioceses.

Since 2001, he said, 4.000 cases of sexual abuse of minors have been reported, Levada said. He said this makes it clear that a response based only on canon law is inadequate. In addition to norms for delinquent clergy, it is also a matter of providing the best possible assistance to victims, promoting child protection programs and training future priests, he said.

Penitential service for victims of abuse
In the evening, in a penitential service marked by quiet seriousness, bishops from around the world prayed for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics. The ceremony at the Jesuit Church of Sant "Ignazio was an emotional highlight of the four-day congress. The Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, presided over the service.

The penitential service in Rome's Old City Church began with 15 minutes of silence and darkness. In subsequent intercessions, seven representatives of groups involved in abuse – including a teacher, a bishop, a religious, a parent – asked for forgiveness for their actions, saying, "Forgive us Lord, and have mercy on us". Victims concluded by asking for divine help to forgive.

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