Panama City, Panama, Jan 26, 2019 / 15:00 pm
A diocesan youth minister who lunched with Pope Francis Saturday said that he spoke about the necessity of prayer in responding to the clerical sex abuse crisis.
Brenda Noriega, young adults ministry coordinator for the Diocese of San Bernardino, was among the 10 young people who dined with Pope Francis Jan. 26 at San Jose Major Seminary in Panama City. She spoke about the experience at a World Youth Day press conference.
Asked about the pope's reflections on the abuse crisis in the US, Noriega responded: "The pope said that it's a horrible crime, and the Church doesn't support these kind of crimes. He expressed the importance of prayer."
She reflected on the US bishops' January retreat, directed by the apostolic preacher, saying Pope Francis wanted the Church in the US "to pray, and [that] before making any decision, we need to pray. That's what he expressed. For me as a youth minister, that means a lot."
"Sometimes we forget about prayer," Noriega stated, "because we react too easy and too fast, so I think what His Holiness is telling us, to the Church, is to first pray, and build community."
Noriega said the pope also spoke about the importance of ensuring that "all the victims of the sexual crisis are heard, and the Church is committed to support them, that the church is committed to walk with them, as we have done it."
"We as a Church we need to be a pastoral Church," she said, "so it was important for me to hear from the Holy Father his affirmation about the support of the Church to the victims."
Noriega was selected to attend the luncheon with Pope Francis by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
She spoke about the fact that the US representative was not "blonde", but a Hispanic, born and raised in Mexico.
"The new face of the Catholic Church in the US has my face," Noriega reflected, noting that most young Catholics in the country are Hispanic.
"This is the way for the USCCB to say we are … ready to let you be protagonists of Catholicism in the US," she said.