Healing Prayer Service Held at Cathedral of St. Paul Addressing Abuse Crisis

September 15, 2018 06:27 PM

Three days after Pope Francis met with a small delegation of U.S. Catholic Church leaders, a healing prayer service was held at the Cathedral of St. Paul.


There was a message of hope, as parishioners and church leaders acknowledged the abuse that's been happening for decades.

“As painful as it is to read the atrocities compiled in the Pennsylvania grand jury report or the allegations made against far-off cardinals and bishops, it's even more gut-wrenching when we acknowledge many of those horrors happened here as well,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

In May, the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese reached a $210 million settlement with more than 400 survivors. It is the largest settlement ever with a church diocese involving a bankruptcy.

While speaking to the hundreds of people gathered at the service Saturday, Hebda thanked all survivors who have come forward.

“It is only in confronting that reality that we can have any hope for healing,” he said. “Healing for those who suffered abuse, healing for the church and even healing for those who abused, or covered up, or stood silent.”

Hebda told parishioners he hopes the survivors will “recognize our deep shame and sorrow as sincere".

One survivor, who did not want to be identified, spoke from the altar.

“Abuse does indeed dramatically affect one's life, however, it doesn't have to destroy it,” he said.  

He called on church leaders to guide the healing process and thanked Hebda for his action addressing the problem in the Twin Cities.

“Be prepared for a negative reaction from some but at the same time it is imperative you are open to listening and striving to learn and understand what a victim of abuse feels like and how their lives were affected,” he said. “Allow victims to express their sorrow, anger and fear.”

The survivor urged forgiveness but said the recovery process will be long, and healing could take decades.

“Actions speak more loudly than words in the work of rebuilding trust,” Hebda said. “I recommit myself, and this local church, to the work of protecting from the scourge of abuse, our children, our youth and our vulnerable sisters and brothers.”

Hundreds of Catholics came from across the region to pray together at the service.

“The most important thing we can do is come together as a community, be united as a community,” said Jennifer Andersen, from Woodbury.

She said it was moving to hear the survivor’s story.

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“To be Catholic is to remember the church is deeper than all of the parts that make it up, it's something beyond that,” said Andersen.

She attended the service with Claire Vouk, also from Woodbury. They said it’s been difficult to process the widespread abuse.

“For me, it's really hard to even know how to respond and there's a lot of emotions and a lot of confusion for me,” Vouk said.

She said she is grateful they were able to come together on Saturday.

“It was a beautiful way to pray for the victims,” said Vouk.

Elizabeth Selenski, from Ham Lake, agreed.

“There’s hope, there's really healing and hope for our church,” Selenski said. “Just pray for the victims.”

John Melssen, from Burnsville, said penance is going to be important for the church moving forward.

“I think it's very important that we face this very straightforward,” said Melssen. “I think this is a beginning."

He also told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Pope Francis also must take more responsibility.

“I think he too has to own up in his own way and I think we have to hear those words from him, I don't know if we've heard them,” said Melssen. “I think that we will.”

At the end of last month, Pope Francis and other top Vatican officials were accused of covering up abuse committed by a former archbishop in Washington. The Vatican now says it's preparing “necessary clarifications” about those accusations.

Pope Francis has not commented about his meeting Thursday with top officials from the U.S. Catholic Church.


Callan Gray

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