Assembly of the Bishops of France

on 01 Dec, 2021
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Tours (France), Sr. Rosario Amelia Garcés del Castillo.- The Bishops of France and the Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr. Celestino Migliore, gathered in Lourdes from November 2 to 8, 2021 for their Autumn Plenary Assembly.

Several guests joined them during the various sessions of the Assembly, which brought together nearly 300 participants, including Sr. Véronique Margron, as President of Corref (Conference of Religious of France).

Largely devoted to the reflection and work linked to the reception of the report of the CIASE (Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church), the Assembly was also marked by sessions on ecological issues "Cry of the Earth and cry of the poor", on November 3 and 4. It was recalled particularly that people in precarious situations are the first victims of ecological crisis.

On November 5, the bishops recognized the institutional responsibility of the Church in the violence suffered by victims of sexual assault. On November 6, 120 bishops of France took part in an atmosphere of seriousness and recollection, together with the victims and lay people invited for the occasion, in a celebration which took place in two parts: A memorial time: in front of a symbol of a face of a weeping child created by a sculptor, and penitential time: in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Here you can listen to the speeches of Sr. Véronique Margron, during the memorial time and penitential service celebrated for the victims of sexual abuse: (min 16' and min 54'18).

A Memorial time

Everything is here in these words and this face.

So perhaps, poor, humble, slow to scrutinize them.

To be, to remain struck with amazement by the extreme suffering in this face, of this tear, of these imploring eyes. A misfortune, a collapse have been imposed, have intruded into existences that only requested to grow, to live, to trust, to give themselves.

The word forbidden outside as well as inside this shattering child, gives me, summons me, obliges me to finally be unoccupied with myself, with ourselves, with our Houses, our riches of all kinds, our assertions, so that all our energy is solely on the side of this too great loneliness which beseeches our truth, our real presence, our answer. To finally to do justice. Thanks to his face that implores, thanks to the gift of the word of the victims and witnesses of this unrepresentable pain, to learn to recognize evil, to name what causes death, to name the murder of the soul committed in our believing communities, by our members, clerics, religious, laity, and then to have as our only grief to care for these tears. Learn to recognize the corrupted word, faith in the living God that has been deviated and disfigured. How can we survive if this child, in his/her childhood, as in his adult life, does not find near him some persons capable of honoring his/her trust, life? It is indeed he, in his immense vulnerability, in his defenseless exposure, who demands that we finally be reliable, true, human, in the depths of his grief.

May this penetrating face of humiliated childhood pursue me, haunt us even, each of us who bear responsibility, in one way or another, until we have made justice and truth meet each other. In all the ways that it continues to inhabit me, to disturb me, silent and insistent watchman of my own heart, of my commitment in favor of "human rights with absolute protection", so that, small or large, manipulated, treated as an object, each one in my Church, in my community, can become a "growing", a free subject of his or her life, simply of highest dignity.

Sr. Véronique Margron, op., President of CORREF

Penitential time

My God, men and women have committed not only the unjustifiable but above all the intolerable. Your Church is and has been the place of crimes against humanity. To beg you, my God, seems almost too small, too little. Beg then also each person whose life has been, is plunged into the abyss of hell, for you are, they are, your face, my God, you the humiliated, despised, crucified God.

Take pity on us, we implore from our innermost being my God, promising to do justice. We beg that be pity on us, we remain at the foot of the Cross. We cannot descend into the hell where every child's life, every adult's life is made vulnerable, has been cast. But we ask for the strength as well as the grace to stand at the door, at the edge of the tomb, and there we beg you, God, who alone can descend into this darkness and break down the door. You alone can deliver us, much more, from the evil we have committed against life, its integrity, dignity, trust, faith in each existence, bruised, one by one, one after the other, disfigured face after disfigured face. To tear ourselves away from this evil and to strengthen our feeble courage so that one day we may hear the word of grace that Joseph offered to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, reduced him into an object, after burying his father Jacob: “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive,” (Gen 50:20).

Sr. Véronique Margron, op., President of CORREF