Pope's preacher calls for abuse penitence

Speaking in the presence of the Pope on Friday, the official "preacher of the papal household", Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, has called for the Church to hold a worldwide day of fasting and penitence to ask forgiveness for priest sex abuse.

Zenit reports that Fr Cantalamessa made the suggestion during a pre-Christmas sermon to the Pope and Vatican officials.

In an Advent reflection on mourning, Fr Cantalamessa said that "the Church has 'wept and sighed' in recent times for the abominations committed in her womb by some of her own ministers and shepherds".

The Church "has paid a high price for this," Fr Cantalamessa continued. "She has sought to repair the damage. Strict rules have been laid down so that these abuses do not happen again."

"The moment has come, after the emergency, to do that which is the most important: to weep before God, to do penance, as God himself has been abused; to do penance for the offence against the body of Christ and the scandalising of the 'least of his brothers', more than for the damage and dishonour that has been brought upon us," Fr Cantalamessa added.

He said the Church should call "a day of fasting and penitence, at the local and national level, where the problem was worst, to publicly express sorrow before God and solidarity with the victims".

Such a day would, he said, help "reconciliation of souls" so the Church could get back on the path of doing its work "with a renewed heart".

Quoting Pope Benedict, whose words "give me the courage to say this", Fr Cantalamessa said that "the wounds caused" are "profound, and the work to restore confidence and trust once these have been broken is urgent".

Referring to the perpetrators of sexual abuse, Fr Cantalamessa paraphrased a text of St Paul to the effect that "let [the perpetrator] be subjected to human justice so that his soul might obtain salvation".

Father Cantalamessa on Those Who Mourn (Zenit, 16/12/06)
Papal preacher wants "penitence day" for sex abuse (Reuters, 15/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Fr Raniero Cantalamessa website

Pope's Easter wish for peace in troubled world (CathNews, 18/4/06)
Cardinals hear preacher on challenges for new pope (CathNews, 15/4/05)

18 Dec 2006