ROME – There is a “long road ahead of us” to implement all the norms necessary to fight clerical sexual abuse, according to Archbishop Philip Naameh of Tamale.
The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Ghana made his remarks during a penitential liturgy in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican.
“We have thereby squandered the trust placed in us,” he said, “especially with regard to abuse within the area of responsibility of the Church, which is primarily our responsibility. We have not afforded people the protection they are entitled to, have destroyed hopes, and people were massively violated in both body and soul.”
The service took place on the penultimate day of the Feb. 21-24 Vatican abuse summit and was attended by Pope Francis. It included an unscheduled testimony of a sexual abuse victim.
During his testimony, the survivor said that not one day goes by without him thinking about his abuse.
“Abuse, is the greatest humiliation an individual can suffer. One must face the fact that you are not able to defend yourself against the superior strength of your aggressor. You cannot escape what happens, but you must bear it,” he said.
The survivor then played a violin solo for the 190 bishops in attendance: Presidents of bishops’ conferences, heads of Eastern Churches, and Vatican officials.
During the liturgy, the bishops listened to an examination of conscience read by Spanish Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez: “What steps have been taken in my country to prevent new injustices? Have I done my best in my diocese to bring justice and reparation to the victims and those who suffer with them?”
During his homily, Naameh said the meeting shows that bishops must take responsibility, demonstrate accountability, and establish transparency.
“What must we do differently, and where should we start? Let us look again at the prodigal son in the Gospel. For him, the situation starts to take a turn for the better when he decides to be very humble, to perform very simple tasks, and not to demand any privileges,” the archbishop said. “His situation changes as he recognizes himself, and admits to having made a mistake, confesses this to his father, speaks openly about it, and is ready to accept the consequences. In this way, the Father experiences great joy at the return of his prodigal son and facilitates the brothers’ mutual acceptance.”
Naameh said Church leaders “should not believe that just because we have begun to change something together, that all difficulties have thereby been eliminated.”
“As with the son who returns home in the Gospel, everything is not yet accomplished – at the very least, he must still win over his brother again. We should also do the same: win over our brothers and sisters in the congregations and communities, regain their trust, and re-establish their willingness to cooperate with us, to contribute to establishing the kingdom of God,” the archbishop said.
The summit will end with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Sala Regia on Sunday.