“Humble prayers and sincere penance”

Rosary prayer © Corinne Simon (KNA)

Set a sign: Under the motto "Communion with the Wounded," the Catholic Church in Poland is celebrating a "Day of Prayer and Penance for the Sin of Sexual Abuse of Minors" this Friday.

"The injured parties have the right to count on not lacking support from the whole community of the Church on the long and difficult road to recovery," the president of the Polish Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, stressed Friday.

Always on the first Friday of Lent

Poland's bishops had decided in 2016 to always celebrate such a day of prayer and penance on the first Friday of Lent. Masses are to be held throughout the country to pray for victims of sexualized violence and for the conversion of perpetrators. In 2015, Pope Francis had suggested that national bishops' conferences establish this day of prayer.

This year's suggestions for Stations of the Cross devotions and rosaries come from "people who have experienced the tragedy of sexual abuse," among others, according to church sources.

The bishops' conference's child protection officer, Primate Archbishop Wojciech Polak, asked all parishes for "humble prayers and sincere repentance". He trusted that acting in solidarity would help "to awaken our conscience and sensitivity, and also to change the consciousness of all the members of the Church, so that everyone does everything in their power with commitment to make our community a safe home for children and young people".

Criticism of the Catholic Church

The church in Poland has been under criticism for some time because of abuse scandals. In protest of bishops' behavior toward abuse survivors, Church Foundation for Victims of Sexual Violence leadership member Robert Fidura recently resigned.

The 53-year-old, who was abused by a clergyman when he was 14, gave up his seat on the council of the Saint Joseph Foundation established by the bishops' conference in 2019. He accused the bishops of "hypocrisy": "On the one hand they donate to the foundation, on the other hand their cupboards are full of corpses."

Bishops' conference apologized several times to abuse victims. At an unprecedented penitential service in 2014, Bishop Piotr Libera said in the name of the Polish bishops: "Ashamed and remorseful, we ask for forgiveness"."

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Christina Cherry
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