“For years, our Church has been sorely tried. Lay people, clergymen, consecrated people, we are deeply touched by the revelations of the abuse that are surfacing all over the world and in our country. We are saddened and chastened by the imprescriptible pain of the victims and their families”. These are the words that open the message “to the people of God who are in France”, sent by the French bishops and endorsed by the members of the Permanent Council, with the signature of the president, mgr. Georges Pontier, on top. It is the first time the bishops address an official message to France about the cases of abuse that even in their country are sorely trying the Church and its reputation. In the text, the bishops do not mention any specific case, even less the case of Lyons that involved cardinal Philippe Barbarin and impressed the country’s public opinion. But they repeat: “Firstly, our thoughts go to those who have had their childhood stolen, those hose lives have been permanently marked by atrocious deeds. Believers and non-believers can see that the deeds committed by some have been reflected on the whole Church, whether they are criminal deeds or guilty silence. We all suffer for this suspicion that affects all of the Church and the priests”.
From there, the bishops send a warning, that suspicion should not impair people’s trust in the Church and in priests. Actually, while they insist that the fight against any abuse will go on “constantly”, in their message the bishops express “our regard and affection for the priests of our Church”. And they add: “We, as bishops, wish to confirm that we support the priests of our dioceses and call all devotees to show they trust them”. The message ends by mentioning Pope Francis’s Letter to the People of God and calling the devotees of the dioceses to put it in practice, because “it’s only through everyone’s efforts and prudence that we will successfully overcome this disaster that is abuse in the Church”. The message ends by announcing that some victims will be invited to take part in the bishops’ next Plenary Meeting in Lourdes, where they will be “welcomed” and “listened to” by the prelates.