This week we have details on Pope Francis' Holy Week schedule and his Holy Week schedule. Venezuela has officially asked the Vatican for help in talks between government and opposition leaders, and we look at one holy site in Rome that is being restored for the first time since the 15th century.
In a late-breaking development, On Friday, Pope Francis sent a letter to Venezuela's president Nicholas Maduro, members of the government and opposition, and the people of Venezuela. Below is Vatican Radio's translation of the letter:
To President Nicolas Maduro Moros, members of Government, representatives of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica and UNASUR leaders.
“Firstly, I desire to thank you for inviting the Holy See to take part in this process of dialogue and peace for your beloved country. I assure each of you of my prayers, so that this meeting and the process you are undertaking bear the desired fruits of national reconciliation and peace, gifts that we invoke from God, for the Venezuelan population.
I am aware of the restlessness and pain that many people are experiencing, and while I express my concern for what is taking place, I renew my affection for all Venezuelans, especially for the victims of violence and their families. I am deeply convinced that violence can never bring peace and wellbeing to a country, because it only ever generates more violence. On the contrary, through dialogue you can rediscover common and shared ground that will help to overcome the current moment of conflict and polarization, which profoundly wounds Venezuela, to find new forms of collaboration. In respect and recognition of the differences that exist in your country, the common good can be favored. In fact, all of you share in the love you have for your nation and its people. You also share concerns linked to the economic crisis, violence and criminality. You all care deeply about your children’s future and desire that peace which distinguishes the Venezuelan people. You all share faith in God and the will to defend the dignity of the human person.
This is what draws you together and urges you to undertake a process of dialogue which begins today, which must be rooted in an authentic culture of encounter, aware that unity must always prevail over conflict. Therefore, `I urge you not to get stuck in the conflict of the moment but open yourselves to one another to become true builders of peace. At the heart of all sincere dialogue is reciprocal recognition and respect . Above all, there is the “heroism” of forgiveness and mercy, which free us from resentment, from hate and open up a road that is truly new. It is a long and difficult road, which requires patience and courage, but it is the only one that can lead to justice and peace. For the good of all your people and the future of your children, I ask you to have this courage.
With these sentiments I accompany the dear Venezuelan nation, and upon each of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing, invoking the help of Our Lord”.
Also on Friday, Pope Francis met with the International Catholic Child Bureau. During his audience he made the strongest public statements on clerical sexual abuse that we have heard from him thus far. Abandoning his prepared text, Pope Francis said:
" I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children..."
Victims advocacy groups were quick to say his statement was not enough. The US based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, released a statement asking Catholics to "be impressed by deeds, not words."
Until recently it might have been an understandable response, but this year Pope Francis created the Commission for the Protection of Minors. He appointed eight people to that Commission, all of whom can be considered "heavy weights" in the area. One of the members, Marie Collins, is a survivor of clerical sexual abuse who started advocacy and support groups for victims in Ireland. Other members of the commission include psychiatrists specialized in identifying potential abusers, and experts in canon and civil law. The commission is currently working on ratifying its statues and identifying additional members for the committee.
***Vatican Connections will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. Tune in May 2, 2014