Bishop Anthony Fisher, auxiliary bishop of Sydney and coordinator of World Youth Day 2008, said Pope Benedict XVI’s “heartfelt” apology for sexually abusive clerics in Australia is a “challenge” to the Catholic Church that will add impetus to the Church’s efforts to improve.
On Saturday Pope Benedict said he was “deeply sorry” for the pain and suffering victims of clerical sexual abuse had endured, the Australian Associated Press reports.
“These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation,” the Pope said at the consecration of the altar at St. Mary’s Cathedral. More than 3,400 people, including Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, bishops, seminarians, and religious and school groups, attended the consecration.
“Those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people,” he continued.
On Sunday Bishop Fisher commented on the Pope’s “heartfelt” words.
“That call to bring justice against the perpetrators and to bring healing, reconciliation and justice to the victims and to ensure prevention of this sort of thing in the future, to the extent that anyone can, that call to us is a challenge to the Church,” he said.
We're certainly committed to the process. This added impetus the Holy Father gives us means we will certainly as a Church in Australia be looking to how we can do this better in the future.”
“The Holy Father wants every victim to know that Christ's loving compassionate heart is there for them and the Church is there for them, deeply ashamed of where it's hurt them and wanting them back,” he continued, the AAP reports.
Bishop Fisher also apologized for his comments about World Youth Day critics “dwelling crankily” on “old wounds.” He said he meant “a few people in the media,” not sexual abuse victims.
“I certainly wasn't intending in any way to make remarks about the victims themselves. Sexual abuse has absolutely no place in the life of the Church. If anything I've said or anyone else has said has exacerbated that situation or hurt them in any way all I can offer again is my deepest apology,” he said. “It's not my place or anyone else's to tell them to stop grieving or to stop hurting: our job is to help them heal and that's what I want to do and that's what the Church wants to do.”