"We can always only take responsibility for something insofar as we are allowed to do so, and the more responsibility we are granted, the better we can serve our own flock," he said.
Gracias highlighted three main themes for his brother bishops to reflect on: justice, healing, and pilgrimage.
"The sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable people not only breaks divine and ecclesiastical law, it is also public criminal behaviour," he said.
"The Church does not only live in an isolated world of its own making...Those who are guilty of criminal behaviour are justly accountable to civil authority for that behaviour."
Although the Church is not an agent of the state, he said, the Church recognises the legitimate authority of civil law and the state and cooperates with civil authorities to bring justice to survivors. This is only possible if bishops and local Churches can work together to build an appropriate relationship with the state.
Healing for victims requires "clear, transparent, and consistent communication" from the Church as well, Gracias said, beginning with "a respectful outreach and an honest acknowledgement of their pain and hurt."
"Although this would seem to be obvious, it has not always been communicated," he said.
"Ignoring or minimising what victims have experienced only exacerbates their pain and delays their healing. Within a collegial Church, we can summon each other to attentiveness and
compassion that enable us to make this outreach and acknowledgement."
Once the hurt has been acknowledged, the Church can offer to help victims heal with the help of "professional counselling to support groups of peers" or other means, and can then implement measures to prevent abuse in the future.
"Our Holy Father has wisely and correctly said that abuse is a human problem. It is not, of course, limited to the Church. In fact, it is a pervasive and sad reality across all sectors of life. Out of this particularly challenging moment in the life of the Church, we – again in a collegial context – can draw on and develop resources which can be of great service to a larger world."
Finally, the cardinal reflected on the pilgrim nature of the Church, noting that "we know that we have not yet arrived at our destination," and "we are a community that is called to continuous repentance and continuous discernment."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
"We must repent – and do so together, collegially – because along the way we have failed. We need to seek pardon. We must also be in a process of continuous discernment. In other words, together or collegially, we need to watch, wait, observe, and discover the direction that God is giving us in the circumstances of our lives," Gracias said.
The cardinal concluded by reminding his brother bishops that undertaking these tasks is not their mission alone, but that these actions "are the work of the Holy Spirit."
"So, let the last word be Veni, Sancte Spiritus, veni," he concluded.