WASHINGTON (CNS) — During an April 11 Mass for healing of abuse victims, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl offered prayers for victims of such abuse, reiterated the Archdiocese of Washington’s commitment to keep children safe, and offered sympathy and solidarity to victims of the recent Coptic church bombings in Egypt.
Cardinal Wuerl — offering the Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on the Tuesday of Holy Week — said it was appropriate to offer the Mass “during the first three days of Holy Week when the Gospel focuses on human failure and our need for God’s gracious mercy.”
The cardinal said the Gospel reading at the Mass, in which Jesus at the Last Supper announces Judas’ betrayal, shows “the tragic consequences of giving in to human frailty” and the “betrayal, failure, pain and sorrow” that ensues.
About 60 people — including members of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Child Protection Advisory Board — attended the Mass that was concelebrated by Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry C. Knestout; Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, rector of the cathedral; and several other priests.
Noting that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Cardinal Wuerl said that the Archdiocese of Washington takes seriously its obligation “to make sure young people are always in a safe environment.”
“The archdiocese is strongly committed to child safety in our church and in our society,” he stressed, noting that since 1986, the archdiocese has had “a strong, comprehensive policy in place to see to it that children are safe everywhere.”
The policy referred to by Cardinal Wuerl is the Archdiocese of Washington’s Child Protection Policy. When the Archdiocese of Washington instituted that policy more than 30 years ago, it was one of the first archdioceses or dioceses in the United States to do so. The policy mandates the reporting of abuse allegations to civil authorities, assisting those who have been harmed, and extensive education and training on how to prevent and identify mistreatment of children and youth.
It also requires a thorough background check for all employees and volunteers who have substantial contact with children. The policy requires two forms of background checks — electronic background checks and fingerprinting — on employees, clergy, volunteers and anyone else who works with young people.
The archdiocesan Child Protection Policy is considered one of the strongest in the nation.
Cardinal Wuerl said that the Catholic Church, as well as the entire nation, “must take steps to avoid it (harming children) and to heal it where it has occurred.”
He lamented “the great wrong perpetuated against (young people) due to psychological, physical and sexual abuse.” Calling young people “among the most vulnerable” in our society, Cardinal Wuerl stressed that “they require us to care for them and to be attentive to them.”
At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl again repeated his condemnation of the April 9 bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt that killed at least 44 people and injured more than 100 others. He called the attacks “a terrible, terrible tragedy” and offered “solidarity with our Coptic brothers and sisters.”
Cardinal Wuerl also read a letter that he and other leaders from Washington-area faith communities and the Interfaith Conference of Washington signed and sent to local Coptic churches and priests. The signers of the statement included leaders from Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Episcopal and Presbyterian faith communities.
Expressing “our deepest sympathy for all those whose lives were lost or forever changed due to the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt,” the letter noted that the faith leaders consider “an attack on one community of faith is an attack on all, and we offer our prayers for God’s mercy and justice.”
“The disturbing news of another attack on Christians, this time Coptic worshippers in Egypt, calls us together so that we might, through the faith traditions represented in this statement, denounce violence but particularly violence perpetrated in the name of religion,” the letter read. “In this week, called holy by Christians around the world, we join in solidarity in decrying this violent attack.”
“We step forward to stand with our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters and with Christians around the world, so that they do not have to carry their cross alone,” the letter said.
Cardinal Wuerl urged those at the Mass “to stand with our Coptic brothers and sisters” and help them “by our prayers, by our support and by our solidarity.”
Szczepanowski is a staff writer at the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.