Vatican City, Sep 18, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).
Addressing participants in the meeting in Warsaw, Poland, the pope referred to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered 41 days before the president’s assassination in 1865.
“‘With malice toward none, with charity for all,’ I urge you to be humble instruments of the Lord, at the service of the victims of abuse, considering them as companions and protagonists of a common future, learning from each other and become more faithful and resilient so that, together, we might face the challenges of the future,” the pope said in a video message issued on Sept. 18.
Pope Francis has referred to the 16th president of the United States before. In his historic speech to the U.S. Congress in 2015, the pope singled out Lincoln alongside four other notable Americans, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton.
“This year marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that ‘this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom,’” he said, quoting from the 1863 Gettysburg Address.
“Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”
The meeting in Warsaw, “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children,” is taking place on Sept. 19-22 with the support of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Bishops’ Conferences of Central and Eastern Europe.
Participants from an estimated 20 countries will reflect on the Church’s response to clerical abuse in the region.
The pope urged leaders to put the welfare of victims ahead of seeking to defend the Church’s reputation.
“Our expressions of sorrow must be converted into concrete pathways of reform to both prevent further abuse and to give confidence to others that our efforts will bring about real and reliable change,” he said.
“I encourage you to listen to the cry of the victims and to dedicate yourselves, with each other and with society in a broader sense, in these important discussions because they truly touch the future of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe — not only the Church’s future, but the hearts of Christians as well. This is our responsibility.”
Speakers at the meeting include Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference.
O’Malley said: “I want to begin by acknowledging and thanking survivors of sexual abuse by clergy who continue to come forward and share their experience. It is because of their courage that others can be spared from experiencing this horror.”
“There is no place or group of people that is immune to being impacted by this crime and sin. It has tragically infiltrated the Church in all countries and all cultures. As leaders, we must be recognized as people committed and accountable, always and everywhere, to the safety of the children entrusted to our pastoral care.”
“The journey of learning will be ongoing throughout our lives. Conversion to a culture of safeguarding is an urgent priority.”
Also speaking is the Chilean abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz, who was appointed to the Pontifical Commission in March.
He told Vatican News that the conference was important because of its emphasis that “dealing with abuse cases right now is an emergency.”
“If we don’t deal with these issues, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” he said, crediting Pope Francis with developing the Church’s response to abuse.
In his video message, the pope said: “The recognition of our errors and our failings can certainly make us feel vulnerable and fragile. But it can also present a moment of splendid grace, a moment of self-emptying, that opens new horizons of love and reciprocal service.”
“If we recognize our mistakes, we have nothing to fear, because it will be the Lord himself who will have led us to that point.