.- Pope Benedict XVI gave what's considered the âstate of the Churchâ address on Monday, highlighting his visit to the U.K., the Middle East synod, and the task of combating child sex abuse within the Church and in the world at large.
On Dec. 20, the Pope addressed the College of Cardinals and representatives of the Roman Curia, at the annual gathering which reviews significant events of the year and gives status updates on the Church.
The pontiff opened his remarks by reflecting on the Year for Priests â a prayer initiative he launched in June of 2009 â saying that there was a âgreat joyâ and a ârenewed awarenessâ within the Church of the beauty and gift of the priesthood.
âWe were all the more dismayed, then, when in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests,â he said.
Priests who perpetrate sex abuse âtwist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.â
Pope Benedict noted that the Church âmust accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal,â emphasizing the need âto repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred.â
He said that penance, reformed priestly formation and the resolution to âask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happenâ are key in addressing clerical sex abuse within the Church.
Although he acknowledged the âgravityâ of abuse being committed by priests, he noted that the Church cannot remain silent âregarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light.â
That context includes the global problems of child pornography and sex trafficking as well as the âpsychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times,â he said.
Pope Benedict then discussed the Synod for the Middle East â a gathering of bishops in October that examined the problems Catholics face in the region. This synod revealed the need to fight against âChristianophobia,â he underscored.
In the Middle East today, âChristians are the most oppressed and tormented minority,â he said.
Although for âcenturies they lived peacefully together with their Jewish and Muslim neighbors,â the Pope described how in âthe turmoil of recent years, the tradition of peaceful coexistence has been shattered and tensions and divisions have grown.â
He noted that these divisions have caused increased violence âin which there is no longer any respect for what the other holds sacred, in which on the contrary the most elementary rules of humanity collapse.â
The bishops' synod worked to address these problems by developing a âconcept of dialogue, forgiveness and mutual acceptance, a concept that we now want to proclaim to the world.â
âThe human being is one, and humanity is one,â the Pope stressed. âWhatever damage is done to another in any one place, ends up by damaging everyone.â
âThus the words and ideas of the Synod must be a clarion call, addressed to all people with political or religious responsibility, to put a stop to Christianophobia,â he said. Everyone in a position of authority must ârise up in defense of refugees and all who are suffering, and to revitalize the spirit of reconciliation.â
During his speech, the Pope also mentioned his âunforgettableâ trip to the U.K in September, highlighting his historic visit to Westminster Abbey and the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman.
He called his visit an âencounter with the world of culture,â saying that the Church made its presence known in the debate over the âquestion of faith and truth itself.â
The Pope emphasized that laws and policies in a given society can only function if there is a moral consensus that transcends âindividuals denominationsâ and unites everyone.
He warned of modern society's trend to âeclipseâ moral reasoning, and stressed the need to âpreserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true.â
This, he added, âis the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.â