Community with the victims – with this motto, the Church in Poland will celebrate the Day of Prayer and Atonement for the Sin of Sexual Abuse of Minors on the first Friday of Lent -February 19th, 2021. “People hurt in this way have the right to count on the fact that they will not lack the spiritual support of the entire ecclesial community on the long and difficult road to recovery,” as Msgr. Wojciech Polak, the Polish Bishops’ Conference Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth, emphasises.
The Church in Poland—responding to the call of Pope Francis—once again takes the pastoral initiative of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, of the Day of Prayer and Penance for the Sin of Sexual Abuse of Minors. Msgr. Polak stresses that, “our involvement with prayer in solidarity, fasting, and other penitential actions comes from the deep conviction that in addition to providing the necessary psychological support to the victims, taking specific legal and punitive action against the perpetrators, as well as extensive social education and prevention of such tragedies in the future, we must as an ecclesial community also put ourselves before God in the spirit of prayer, penance, and pastoral action.”
On the day of prayer and penance for the sexual abuse of minors, Friday February 19th, Holy Mass will be celebrated at 7:00 am, broadcast by the Shrine at Jasna Góra, for the intention of the victims. Fr. Bogumił Kempa, Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth of the Diocese of Kalisz, will be presiding. This intention will also be expressed during the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00 pm from the Shrine in Krakow-Łagiewniki. On the day prior, the Appeal of Jasna Góra at 9:00 pm will be led by Fr. Łukasz Knieć, Delegate for Victims of Abuse of the Diocese of Opole.
Pastoral materials for the Day of Prayer and Penance of the Sin of Sexual Abuse of Minors prepared by the Office of the Delegate of the Polish Episcopal Conference for the Protection of Children and Youth contains useful liturgical materials and texts for reflection: The Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, and the intention of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. “The meditations of the Stations of the Cross prepared for this year show that there are people and institutions that assume ‘responsibility for the pain of our brothers and sisters, wounded in body and soul’, by supporting them in a very concrete way. Their experience of work with victims and sensitivity to the pain of sexually abused persons are clearly visible in these reflections,” observes Fr. Piotr Studnicki, Director of the Office of the Delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for the Protection of Children and Youth. The authors of the meditations include a clerk of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, the Diocesan Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth, representatives of the Regional Consultation point for Victims in the Church based in Poznań, the Centre for the Protection of Children, and the Initiative “Wounded in the Church.” The texts they have created are a prayer for “hearts sensitive to the cry of our wounded brothers and sisters,” an encouragement to “courageously lift up those who are overwhelmed by the cross of painful experiences,” to “listen gently and graciously to those who live with the trauma of sexual abuse—which is further deepened by incredulity about what they have experienced and by the minimizing of their pain.” The material is complemented by a list of institutions that work on behalf of victims of child sexual abuse and for the protection of children and youth in the Church in Poland.
In collaboration with the spiritual fathers of the aggrieved persons and the St. Joseph Foundation for the Polish Bishop’s Conference, the website wspolnotazezranionymi.pl (community with the victims) was also created, where materials for the Day of Prayer and Penance for the Sin of Sexual Abuse of Minors were published. The website will serve as a permanent aid for all those who wish to provide spiritual and pastoral support to people who have been wounded by sexual abuse in church settings. Priests and leaders of parish groups and movements can find materials on the site wspolnotazezranionymi.pl to support victims and energize sensitivity in the communities. Injured people will find the contact information for the spiritual fathers of the victims, who provide spiritual support. Fr. Studnicki announced that “the site is in the development phase, we plan to update it soon with the capability of adding intentions and, on the other hand, to refer to groups and parishes that pray for the victims throughout the year.” The Director of the Office of the Delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference highlighted that “We want the wounded to feel the spiritual support of the entire Church community at all times.”
(translation: Office for Foreign Communication of the Polish Bishops’ Conference)