Pope Francis is leading efforts to heal the wounds of the sexual abuse scandals so the Church can fulfill her mission, says Canada’s apostolic nuncio.
“Pope Francis sees the Church as a community of men and women who live for others, who care for those in need, for those who are injured, for those who find themselves on the margins of life,” Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi told a gathering of about 300 people, including diplomats, bishops, church officials, lay leaders and friends at a June 27 reception at his Ottawa residence honouring the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.
“But in order to heal others, we need to be cared for and healed ourselves.”
Bonazzi, the Vatican’s representative in Canada, spoke of Pope Francis’ “unique image” of the Church as a “field hospital,” based on the story of the Good Samaritan.
“Precisely to help and ensure the good health of the Church, which in recent times has found itself sick and wounded by the serious scandals of sexual abuse, Pope Francis is leading a serious and ongoing process of healing and reconciliation, a process which had one of its most significant moments in the convocation last February, of bishops and religious superiors from around the world on the protection of minors in the Church.”
The nuncio called it an open and transparent process, noting Pope Francis is not asking the Church to “hide or ignore” her wounds, but to instead put Christ at the centre since He is the One who can heal them.
“Yes, Pope Francis is at the forefront in leading this three-dimensional battle of life which consists in doing good, responding to evil with good and, with God’s help, bringing good from evil,” the nuncio said.
“In this context, I am very pleased to note that the protection of minors has been a major priority of the Church in Canada since the 1980s,” he said.
“The historical engagement of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in the area of prevention remains relevant and valuable to this day.
“Their recent document, Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformation, is a most valuable resource for Catholic bishops and religious superiors in Canada and around the world,” he said.
“It was held up as a best practice at the important meeting at the Vatican last February.”
Bonazzi also spoke of Pope Francis’ efforts in promoting fraternity not only among other Christian denominations but also with Islam. He mentioned the Holy Father’s historic visit in February to the United Arab Emirates and his signing, along with the Great Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyib, of the document The Human Fraternity for World Peace and Common Coexistence.
The text of that document was inspired both by the Gospel and the Koran, he said.
“By insisting on fraternity, Pope Francis wants to remind us that a society in which only we give to receive and which — at the level of individuals but also of States — has lost the capacity of ‘free of charge’ to others, is a society incapable of a meaningful future,” the nuncio said.
“On this path of fraternity, which is impossible without sharing, forgiveness and mercy, we meet Pope Francis as a faithful travelling companion.”
The nuncio noted he is asked regularly if the Pope will come to Canada.
“With deep conviction I answer ‘yes!’ although I must immediately add that as for the time and exact date, only the Lord knows,” he said.
The nuncio closed his address with a message of gratitude for the life of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, who died in May.
“Jean’s visit to a small village in France with an institution that housed men with mental disabilities prompted him to learn more about them and the sufferings they endured,” he said.
“Thus began the journey of L’Arche, a place of welcome where people with these and other disabilities, and their caregivers, journey through life together.”
He noted there are 154 residential communities in 38 countries on five continents.
In 1971, Vanier co-founded the movement Foi et Lumière (Faith and Light) for children and adults, “some with disabilities and others without, that has grown to nearly 1,500 communities in 81 countries on five continents,” he said.
“Let us give thanks to God for Jean Vanier, who taught the world some powerful lessons about goodness, mercy, fraternity and joy,” the nuncio said. “May we learn from his love of the poor, his care for the little ones, his sense of hospitality and his goodness. He taught the world a powerful lesson. And he was a Canadian.”