Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 5, 2010
Smith offers 'unequivocal support' to pope in abuse crisis
Questions must be addressed forthrightly, transparently, he says at Chrism Mass
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Saying, "We cannot run or hide from these things," Archbishop Richard Smith addressed the scourge of clergy sexual abuse that has rocked the Church in Europe.
During his homily for the annual Chrism Mass, the archbishop also expressed the unequivocal support of the Church in Canada for the leadership of Pope Benedict.
"As the scandal unfolds some media reports are even claiming that the Holy Father himself has been negligent in his leadership pertaining to these heinous crimes," he said to a packed St. Joseph's Basilica March 29.
"Any impartial observer can see that Pope Benedict is deeply troubled by the harm that has been done to young people.
"He does not hesitate to manifest his sorrow and empathy to victims. And he has clearly demonstrated his resolve, both before and after assuming the papal office, to confront this problem and lead the Church on a path of healing, renewal and reparation."
In his homily, Smith said Canada's bishops had just sent a letter to the pope, in which they affirm their complete confidence "in the strong and decisive leadership he has shown and continues to show when dealing with this terrible problem."
With the pope, the bishops also share in "the profound sorrow arising from the undeniable fact that some clergy have hurt innocent children, and some bishops have badly mishandled their responses to these crimes," he said.
"We cannot run or hide from these things, and we have no desire to do so. They need to be squarely faced with the Gospel principles of healing, truth, light and repentance."
The Church in Canada has been dealing with clergy sexual abuse issues for more than 20 years, the archbishop said. It "has been working ever since to provide healing to victims, remove perpetrators from ministry and create safe environments for children and other vulnerable people."
Now that the problem has arisen in other countries, the questions that are raised "need to be forthrightly and transparently addressed," he said.
Smith addressed the issue again the following day in a meeting with local news media.
He rejected the impression created by recent news reports that the pope is somehow involved in a culture of secrecy and that he is personally responsible for "these difficulties."
"If that's the impression, I just want to state categorically that that's not the case. That would be a false impression."
At the Chrism Mass, Smith also offered encouragement to priests who gathered for the event from across the archdiocese.
The annual Holy Week liturgy is an opportunity for the Church to thank the Lord for the gift of the priesthood and for priests to renew their priestly commitment.
"I share with you, Fathers, the anger, sadness and discouragement that arise when some of our brothers fall prey to the mystery of evil and cause great harm," he told the priests directly.
"I also understand the deep disappointment occasioned by a failure of leadership among bishops in whom you want and need to have confidence.
"In moments when we feel demoralized, our call is to fix our eyes on Christ. He who has instituted the priesthood and has called us to its exercise has the power to turn all things, even moments of dark crisis, to the good. Let us always find our hope in him."
During the Mass, which marks the start of Holy Week liturgies, Smith blessed the sacred oils that will be used in sacraments celebrated across the Edmonton Archdiocese. After the Mass he warmly greeted representatives from each parish in the archdiocese and passed on to them small vials of the Oil of Catechumens, Oil of the Sick and Oil of Chrism.
In his homily, Smith expressed gratitude to all those who strive to be signs of Christ in our world - lay people, priests, deacons, women and men religious.
"To one and all I want to express my deep gratitude. Thank you for striving in all aspects of your daily lives to be faithful witnesses to the truth and beauty of the Gospel, especially in difficult times."
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