Pope Francis: Abuse revelations are purifying the Church

Pope Francis addresses the priests of the Diocese of Rome in the Archbasilica of St John Lateran March 7 2019 Credit Vatican Media Pope Francis addresses the priests of the Diocese of Rome in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, March 7, 2019. | Vatican Media.

God is purifying his Church through the painful revelations of the abuse scandals, so do not be discouraged, Pope Francis said Thursday in a meeting with the priests of the Diocese of Rome.

"Sin disfigures us, and we experience with pain the humiliating experience of when we ourselves or one of our brother priests or bishops falls into the bottomless pits of vice, corruption or, worse still, of the crime that destroys the lives of others," he said March 7.

Speaking in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Francis told the priests of the Rome diocese that he feels with them "the unbearable pain and suffering that the wave of scandals – which the whole world's newspapers are now full of – causes in us and in the whole ecclesial body."

"Still, do not be discouraged! The Lord is purifying his Bride and is converting us all to himself," he continued, stating that this "test" is to help them understand that without God "we are dust."

"It is saving us from hypocrisy, from the spirituality of appearances. He is blowing his Spirit to restore beauty to his Bride, surprised in flagrant adultery," he added.

Referencing a part of his homily for the closing Mass of the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on the protection of minors in the Church, he said the "true meaning of what is happening is to be found in the spirit of evil, in the Enemy."

The pope's remarks were made the same day Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon was convicted of failing to report allegations abuse by a priest of his archdiocese, and days before Cardinal George Pell will be sentenced in Australia for an abuse conviction handed down in December.

The convictions are the latest developments as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.

Pope Francis meets with the priests of the Diocese of Rome every year at the start of Lent. In a change from past meetings, he forwent responding to questions from the priests, opting instead to give both prepared and un-prepared remarks. He also heard the confessions of several priests.

Reflecting on Confession and the sinfulness of priests, the pope said God "never tires of using us to offer reconciliation to people."

"We are the poorest sinners, yet God takes us to intercede for our brothers and to distribute to human beings, through our hands, not at all innocent, the salvation that renews," he said.

He also reflected on the temptation to self-sufficiency, calling it a "holy mirror."

"We must never cease to warn each other of the temptation of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction, as if we were People of God for our own initiative or our own merit," he said, adding that "we are and always will be the fruit of the Lord's merciful action."

"The Master told us: 'without me you cannot do anything!' … I am not the center of activities, even the center of prayer, so many times ... No, no, He is the center," he reminded.

"This is why this time of Lent is truly a grace: it allows us to relocate before God, letting him be everything."

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