European bishops welcome pope’s letter, pledge new abuse initiatives

By Jonathan Luxmoore/Catholic News Service

OXFORD, England (CNS) — Catholic bishops from the Pope Benedict XVI’s native Bavaria have pledged to tighten procedures for handling abuse claims against local clergy.

“Our uppermost priority must be to seek the truth and create an open atmosphere which encourages victims to state what was done to them,” bishops from the Munich and Freising and Bamberg archdioceses said in a statement after a mid-March meeting.

“We wish to investigate every suspicion and clear up every mistake,” the March 18 statement said. “We therefore unanimously recommend revising our church’s guidelines to include an obligation to register suspected sexual abuse with the authorities and physical abuses with the district attorney’s office so it can immediately mount an independent investigation.

“As bishops, we must do everything in our power to prevent abuse.”

The bishops also said they felt “consternation and shame” at reports of sexual abuse by priests in the south German region, which includes the pope’s hometown of Marktl am Inn. It said the bishops would press for the German church’s revised 2002 guidelines to include greater care in the selection and training of priests, and more effective abuse prevention in Catholic schools and organizations.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising demanded closer church cooperation with judicial authorities and said Catholics should pray that victims would forgive their abusers “in the knowledge that healing comes from God.”

“We must pray that the children and young people who suffered mistreatment and abuse in the church, at the hands of its associates, priests and order members, will find strength to endure,” the church leader said in a homily during the meeting.

“God’s mercy requires that we let ourselves be transformed by his love and placed on a new path — not that we quickly pass over the truth, but that we say what is happening clearly.”

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