Poland’s Catholic Church holds day of prayer for abuse survivors

28112378676_fe7df71695_k.jpg Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa, Poland, pictured June 22, 2016. Credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Poland's Catholic Church on Friday will observe a day of prayer for abuse survivors.

The Feb. 19 observance -- known as the "Day of prayer and penance for the sin of sexual abuse of minors" -- will include a Mass for the intention of abuse victims at the shrine of Jasna Góra, which houses the venerated icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa.

Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Polish bishops' conference delegate for the protection of children and youth, said: "People hurt in this way have the right to count on the fact that they will not lack the spiritual support of the entire ecclesial community on the long and difficult road to recovery."

Pope Francis approved the establishment of a day of prayer for survivors of abuse in 2016, leaving bishops' conferences free to choose the date for its observance.

Polak, the 56-year-old archbishop of Gniezno, said: "Our involvement with prayer in solidarity, fasting, and other penitential actions comes from the deep conviction that, in addition to providing the necessary psychological support to the victims, taking specific legal and punitive action against the perpetrators, as well as extensive social education and prevention of such tragedies in the future, we must as an ecclesial community also put ourselves before God in the spirit of prayer, penance, and pastoral action."

In 2019, the Polish bishops' conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

A number of bishops have faced accusations of mishandling abuse cases, including Bishop Edward Janiak of Kalisz, who resigned last October.

Janiak faced scrutiny under the terms of Pope Francis' 2019 motu proprio "Vos estis lux mundi." Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, the former archbishop of Gdańsk, and Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy, the retired bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec, have also been subject to "Vos estis" investigations.

Last November, Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz died 10 days after he was sanctioned by the Vatican after an investigation into accusations of sexual abuse. 

This week Poland's Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin criticized the Church's handling of the case of Fr. Andrzej Dymer, who died on Feb. 16 at the age of 58. A television program alleged that the priest's superiors had known of abuse allegations against him since the mid-1990s but were slow to take action. Archbishop Polak said that there was "no justification" for the delay.

Other events marking the day of prayer and penance, which falls on the first Friday of Lent, include the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Łagiewniki.

The Office of the Delegate of the Polish Episcopal Conference for the Protection of Children and Youth is distributing pastoral resources for the day, based around the Stations of the Cross, the rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Fr. Piotr Studnicki, director of the office, said: "The meditations of the Stations of the Cross prepared for this year show that there are people and institutions that assume 'responsibility for the pain of our brothers and sisters, wounded in body and soul', by supporting them in a very concrete way." 

"Their experience of work with victims and sensitivity to the pain of sexually abused persons are clearly visible in these reflections." 

Resources for parishes are available on a website called Wspólnota ze zranionymi ("Community with the wounded"). The material includes a list of institutions working on behalf of abuse victims and for the protection of children and youth in the Church in Poland.

Studnicki said: "The site is in the development phase. We plan to update it soon with the capability of adding intentions and, on the other hand, to refer to groups and parishes that pray for the victims throughout the year." 

He added: "We want the wounded to feel the spiritual support of the entire Church community at all times."

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