LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Candles will be lit in churches across Ireland to mark the Feb. 15 commemoration of the annual Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of Sexual Abuse.
“In lighting these candles we will bring to mind our brothers and sisters, and their families, who have been left with a lifelong suffering as a result of abuse, whose trust was so deeply betrayed and whose faith has been so cruelly tested within the sanctity of the Church by perpetrators of abuse,” said Armagh Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Primate of All Ireland.
This will be the third year the day of prayer is observed, and this year comes a week before the Vatican summit on sex abuse, which takes place in Rome Feb. 21-24.
Martin encouraged parishes to light the candles during the Vatican meeting, saying he was convinced “that prayer and outreach to survivors of abuse is a modern-day corporal and spiritual work of mercy.”
The Vatican meeting will bring together the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences and leaders of religious congregations to discuss safeguarding standards in the Church.
Martin, as head of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, will attend the event.
“In recent weeks I have been privileged to meet with victims and survivors of abuse and members of their families in the four provinces of Ireland. Many have spoken to me about the importance of prayer for survivors, and for the need for the Church to be open to justice, to atone and never forget them,” the archbishop said in a statement on Monday.
“I have been humbled by their courage and overwhelmed by their generosity of spirit. It is my intention to relay the lived experience and insights of Irish survivors, both personally to Pope Francis, and more widely to the safeguarding meeting in Rome later this month,” he continued.
Ireland has been particularly affected by sexual abuse scandals, with church attendance falling drastically over the past 20 years. Once considered the most Catholic country in Europe, Irish voters in recent years have overwhelmingly supported legalizing both same-sex marriage and abortion.
“The ‘Candle of Atonement’ and accompanying prayer are offered as a reminder to all of the need for us to atone, to ask forgiveness as a Church for the suffering caused by abuse. My hope is that these candles will be lit in cathedrals and parishes across the country as a reminder of the need for atonement and that they will symbolize repentance, light in the darkness and hope,” Martin said.