During their visit ‘ad Limina Apostolorum’ with the Pope, the bishops of England and Wales asked Pope Francis for a message that they could bring back to their dioceses.
The Pope answered their request very simply: “that we are to live the gift of our faith with joy." Joy is the supreme good. We may experience poverty, discrimination, failure, the loss of property or people we love… but we can more easily live through all that if only we have joy in our hearts.
Even for Qoheleth--by far the most critical and gloomy character of the whole Bible--life is worth living only because of the joy of family, of seeing the fruits of one’s work and of sharing your life, time, and food with good friends (Eccl 9:9; 3:22; 2:24).
Other biblical witness, however, affirms that there is an even greater joy in praising God in the liturgy. The liturgy is like an open door that allows us to have a glimpse into the infinite, the eternal, the divine… heaven. In the liturgy, we experience both the loving presence of God and the fellowship of the brothers and sisters. (Ps 33:1-3; 133).
There is an even greater joy, though: the joy of having an encounter with Jesus Christ. John the Baptist leapt for joy when--still in the womb of his mother--he heard the greeting of Mary, who already carried in her womb the child Jesus. Mary herself was told by the angel Gabriel that she ought to rejoice because she would be the mother of Jesus. And with them, so many other men and women who experienced Jesus’ love and power to forgive and to heal. (Mk 2:1-12; 5:1-20; Lk 5:17-26; Lk 8:1-8).
A joy that comes not so much from being freed of one’s ailments but from realizing that in the person of Jesus Christ, God has chosen us from among all the other people and called us to participate of his Kingdom (Col 1:11-14).
This joy does not fade when trials come; rather, it increases because the result of suffering is a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our loving God as well as an increase in faith, hope, and charity (Rm 5:3-5; Jm 1:2-4).
Let us rejoice, then, for having received the greatest gift of all: meeting the person of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Fr Daniel Herrero
As we gather in Rome for our visit ‘ad Limina Apostolorum’, we have spent time together reflecting again on the impact of the recent reports containing stark revelations of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, including in England and Wales, and of evident failures of local leadership. We have also reflected on the practical steps we must take.
We do so in the light of all that has been achieved since the Report of Lord Nolan in 2001. We have endeavored to build a culture of safeguarding within the Church’s parishes and religious communities in England and Wales, thereby providing a safe environment for all. In every parish, there is a Parish Safeguarding Representative. In every Diocese, there is a Safeguarding Coordinator and a Diocesan Safeguarding Commission, composed of experts in the main disciplines needed for effective safeguarding. We have established the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC), with a strong majority membership of experts, independent of the authority structures of the Catholic Church. Much has been achieved. Much is to be learned.
Today, 24 September, 2018, we have decided to ask the NCSC to commission an entirely independent and comprehensive review of the safeguarding structures that currently operate within the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Importantly, we will seek to ensure that the voices of the victims and survivors of abuse, through the Survivors Advisory Panel established by the NCSC, fully inform the review and its recommendation.
Each bishop has decided that he will take steps to set aside time for the purpose of meeting with victims and survivors of clerical abuse who live in his diocese.
May God guide us during this week and in this work, that the voice of Christ, crying out in those who have suffered, may be heard with compassion and discernment.
Copies of the full statement are at the back of the Church.