Advent prayers offered for abuse victims, peace in Iraq

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — This Advent Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of Wilmington, Del., asked the parishes in his diocese to keep the healing of victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families in their prayers and at Masses.

Elsewhere, Bishop Joseph L. Charron of Des Moines, Iowa, joined with other religious leaders to hold three ecumenical prayer services in Advent to pray for peace in Iraq.

“This season of hope and expectation is an ideal time for us to intensify our prayers together for the healing of victims of clergy sexual abuse and victims of sexual abuse in general,” Bishop Saltarelli said in his statement.

“We also pray for parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, extended family and friends of victims who have carried a variety of painful crosses that are connected to their loved one’s experience of sexual abuse,” he said.

Bishop Saltarelli said that the church’s “efforts to protect God’s children must be complemented by these spiritual efforts on behalf of victims and their families.”

He asked each pastor to celebrate a special Advent prayer service, Mass or eucharistic Holy Hour for the healing of victims and others affected by clergy sexual abuse. Also, parishes were asked to include petitions in the prayer of the faithful for this intention at every Sunday and weekday Mass during Advent.

At a recent press conference at the diocesan pastoral center in Des Moines, Bishop Charron and other religious leaders announced a series of ecumenical prayer services for Tuesdays in December at the center. Each 15- to 30-minute service was planned for noon, so that people working or visiting the downtown area could attend during the lunch hour.

Among those at the press conference were the bishops of the Episcopal, Lutheran and Methodist churches, the regional minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest, the conference minister of the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ and representatives of the Church of the Brethren.

In his remarks Bishop Charron noted that at their fall meeting in Baltimore in November, the U.S. bishops approved a statement on Iraq.

Issued in the name of Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it called on the Bush administration and the new Congress “to engage in a collaborative dialogue that honestly assesses the situation in Iraq” and “reaches agreement on concrete steps to address the serious challenges that lie ahead.”

“Personally I have really struggled with how to deal with this issue with my faithful,” Bishop Charron said. “It is frustrating to remember that, before the war, the pope and our bishops’ conference repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns about making war in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of invasions and occupation. These concerns have clearly come true.”

So, he asked, “how do we now proceed? Is protest the answer? Protest certainly has its place and raises awareness. … However protest by itself does not engage the complexity of pacifism and just-war theology. We need to bring those traditions into this debate!”

But at the same time, he said, “we need to pray! Certainly we know prayer can change hearts and thereby help clear the difficult path to peace.”

He urged prayers for the military in Iraq and their families and for “suffering people of Iraq.”

Bishop Charron said it also is “time to move from prayer to action” and urged “all people of good will” to examine where the U.S. stands “in pursuing justice and peace in Iraq” and to contact their elected representatives and let them know where they stand.

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