Vatican City, Jun 5, 2018 / 07:53 am (CNA).- In a letter to Catholics in Chile on May 31, Pope Francis said he is ashamed of the Church’s failure to listen to victims, and urged all the baptized to make a commitment to ending the culture of abuse and cover-up.
Please find below CNA’s translation of the full text of Pope Francis’ May 31 letter:
To the Pilgrim People of God in Chile
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This past April 8, I called my brother bishops to Rome to seek together in the short, medium and long term the ways of truth and life in face of an open, painful and complex wound which for a long time has not stopped bleeding. And I suggested that they invite the entire faithful Holy People of God to place themselves in a state of prayer so the Holy Spirit might give us the strength to not fall into the temptation of getting wound up in empty word games, in sophisticated diagnostics, or in vain gestures which would not allow us the necessary courage to look directly at the pain caused, the face of its victims, the magnitude of the events. I invited them to look to where the Holy Spirit is moving us, since “closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.”
With joy and hope I received the news that there were many communities, towns, and chapels where the People of God were praying, especially the days we were gathered together with the bishops: the People of God on their knees who implore the gift of the Holy Spirit to find the light in the Church, “wounded by her sin, granted mercy by her Lord, and so that every day she may become prophetic in her vocation.” We know that prayer is never in vain and that “in the midst of darkness something new always buds forth, that sooner or later bears fruit.”
1. To appeal to you, to ask for your prayers was not a practical recourse nor was it a simple goodwill gesture. On the contrary, I wanted to frame things in their precise and valuable place and put the issue where it ought to be: the condition of the People of God “the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in His temple.” The faithful Holy People of God are anointed with the grace of the Holy Spirit; therefore when we reflect, think, evaluate, discern, we must be very attentive to this anointing. Whenever as a Church, as pastors, as consecrated persons, we have forgotten this certainty, we have lost our way. Whenever we try to supplant, silence, look down on, ignore or reduce into small elites the People of God in their totality and differences, we construct communities, pastoral plans, theological accentuations, spiritualities, structures without roots, without history, without faces, without memory, without a body, in the end, without lives. To remove ourselves from the life of the People of God hastens us to the desolation and to a perversion of ecclesial nature; the fight against a culture of abuse requires renewing this certainty.
As I said to the young people in Maipú, I want to specially tell each one of you: “Holy Mother the Church today needs the faithful People of God to challenge us […] you need to take out your adult ID card, as spiritual adults, and have the courage to tell us ‘I like this,’ ‘this is the way I think we should go,’ ‘that’s not going to work,’ …Tell us what you feel and think.” This is capable of involving all of us in a Church with a synodal character which knows how to put Jesus in the center.
The People of God does not have first, second or third-class Christians. Their participation is not a question of goodwill, concessions, rather it is constitutive of the nature of the Church. It is impossible to imagine a future without this anointing operating in each one of you, which certainly demands and requires new forms of participation. I urge all Christians to not be afraid to be the protagonists of the transformation that is demanded today and to propel and promote creative alternatives in the daily search for Church that every day wants to put what is important in the center. I invite all the diocesan organizations from whatever area they may be to consciously and lucidly seek areas of communion and participation so that the Anointing of the People of God may find its concrete mediations to express itself.
The renewal of the Church hierarchy by itself does not create the transformation to which the Holy Spirit moves us. We are required to together promote a transformation of the Church that involves us all.
A prophetic Church and, therefore, full of hope, demands of everyone an eyes-wide-open mysticism, that questions, that is not asleep. Do not let yourselves be robbed of the anointing of the Spirit.
2. “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8) This is how Jesus responded to Nicodemus in the conversation they were having on the possibility of being born again in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
At this time in the light of this passage it is good for us to look back at our personal and communal history: The Holy Spirit blows where and how he wills with the sole purpose of helping us to be born again. Far from letting us get boxed up in schemes, modalities, fixed or obsolete structures, far from letting yourself be resigned or “letting down your guard” in the face of events, the Spirit is continually in movement to widen your horizons, to make the person who has lost hope to dream, to do justice in truth and charity, to purify from sin and corruption, and always invited to necessary conversion. Without looking at this with faith, everything we could say or do would be useless. This certainty is essential to look at the present without evasions but with bravery, with courage, but wisely, with tenacity but without violence, with passion but without fanaticism, with constancy but without anxiety, and thus change all that which today puts at risk the integrity and dignity of every person; since the solutions that are needed demand facing the problems without getting trapped in them or, what would be worse, repeating the same mechanisms that we want to eliminate. Today we are challenged to look straight ahead, assume and suffer the conflict, and thus be able to resolve and transform it in a new direction.
3. In the first place, it would be unfair to attribute this process just to the recently experienced events. Every process of review and purification that we are experiencing is possible thanks to the effort and perseverance of specific individuals, who even against all hope or stains of discredit, did not tire of seeking the truth; I am referring to the victims of abuses of sexuality, power and authority and to those who at the time believed and accompanied them. Victims whose cry reached the heavens. I would like once more to publicly thank all of them for their courage and perseverance.
This recent time is a time of listening and discernment to arrive at the roots that allowed such atrocities to occur and be perpetuated and thus find solutions to the abuse scandal, not merely with containment strategies—essential but insufficient—but with the measures necessary to take on the problem in its complexity.
In this regard I would like to pause on the word “listening,” since discerning supposes learning how to listen to what the Spirit wants to tell us. And we will only be able to do it if we are capable of listening to the reality of what is going on.
I believe that here resides one of our main faults and omissions: not knowing how to listen to the victims. Thus partial conclusions were drawn which lacked crucial elements for a healthy and clear discernment. With shame I must say that we did not know how to listen and react in time.
The visit of Archbishop Scicluna and Monsignor Bertomeu was born when we saw that there were situations that we did not know how to see and hear. As a Church we could not continue to walk ignoring the pain of our brothers. After reading the report, I wanted to personally meet with some of the victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience, to listen to them and to ask forgiveness for our sins and omissions.
4. In these meetings, I noted how the lack of recognition/listening to their stories, as well as the recognition/acceptance of the errors and omissions in the entire process impedes us from making headway. A recognition that ought to be more than an expression of goodwill toward the victims, rather that ought to be a new way to for us to adopt a new attitude before life, before others and before God. Hope for tomorrow and confidence arises from and grows in taking on the fragility, the limitations and even the sins in order to help us go forward. 
The “never again” to the culture of abuse and the system of cover up that allows it to be perpetuated demands working among everyone in order to generate a culture of care which permeates our ways of relating, praying, thinking, of living authority; our customs and languages and our relationship with power and money. We know today that the best thing we can say in face of the pain caused is a commitment to personal, communal, and social conversion that learns to listen to and care for especially the most vulnerable. It is therefore urgent to create spaces where the culture of abuse and cover up is not the dominant scheme, where a critical and questioning attitude is not confused with betrayal. We have to promote this as a Church and to seek with humility all the actors that make up the social reality and promote ways of dialogue and constructive confrontation to move toward a culture of care and protection.
To attempt this enterprise by ourselves alone, or with our efforts and tools, would shut us up in dangerous voluntaristic dynamics that would perish in the short term. Let us allow ourselves to be helped and to help create a society where the culture of abuse does not find the space to perpetuate itself. I exhort all Christians and especially those responsible for centers of higher education, formal or informal, healthcare centers, institutes of formation and universities, to join together with the dioceses and with all of civil society to lucidly and strategically promote a culture of care and protection. Let each of these spaces promote a new mentality.
5. The culture of abuse and cover up is incompatible with the logic of the Gospel, since the salvation offered by Christ is always an offer, a gift that demands and requires freedom. Washing the feet of the disciples is how Christ shows us the face of God. It is never by way of coercion or obligation but by way of service. Let us say it clearly, every means that attacks freedom and a person’s integrity is anti-Gospel. Therefore it is also necessary to create processes of faith where we learn to know when it is necessary to doubt and when not to. “Doctrine, or better our understanding and expression of it ‘is not a closed system, deprived of dynamics capable of bringing up questions, doubts, questionings,’ since the questions of our people, their anxieties, their fights, their dreams, their struggles, possess an hermeneutical value that we cannot ignore if we want to take seriously the principle of incarnation. I invite all centers of religious formation, theology schools, institutes of higher learning, seminaries, houses of formation and spirituality to promote a theological reflection that is capable of rising to the challenge of the present time, to promote a mature, adult faith that assumes the vital humus of the People of God with their searching and questioning. And thus, to then promote communities capable of fighting against abusive situations, communities where exchanges, debate and confrontation are welcome. We will be fruitful to the extent that we empower and open communities from within and thus free ourselves from closed and self-referential thoughts full of promises and mirages which promise life but which ultimately favor the culture of abuse.
I would like to make a brief reference to the pastoral ministry of popular devotion carried out in many of your communities since it is an invaluable treasure and authentic school of the heart for our people and in the same act the heart of God. In my experience as a pastor I learned to discover that pastoral ministry of popular devotion is one of the few places where the People of God is sovereign from the influence of that clericalism that seeks to always control and stop the anointing of God on his people. Learning from popular piety is to learn to enter into a new kind of relationship of listening and spirituality that demand a lot of respect and does not lend itself to quick and simplistic readings since popular piety “reflects a thirst for God that only the poor and simple can know.” 
To be “the Church that goes out” also is to allow itself to be helped and to be challenged. Let us not forget that “the wind blows where it wills: you hear its sound but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8)
6. As I told you, during the meetings with the victims I was able to see that the lack of recognition prevents us from getting anywhere. That is why I think it is necessary to share with you that I rejoiced and it gave me hope to confirm in conversation with them their recognition of people that I like to call “the saints next door.” We would be unfair if alongside our pain and our shame for those structures of abuse and cover up that have been so much perpetuated and have done so much evil, we would not recognize the many faithful lay people, consecrated men and women, priests and bishops who give life through love in the most obscure areas of the beloved land of Chile. All of them are Christians who know how to weep with those who weep, who hunger and thirst for justice, who look and act with mercy; Christians who try every day to illumine their lives in the light of the standards by which we will be judged: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Mt 25:34-36)
I recognize and am thankful for their courage and constant example – in turbulent, shameful and painful moments they continue to make a stand with joy for the Gospel. That witness does me a lot of good and sustains me in my own desire to overcome selfishness to give more fully of myself. Far from diminishing the importance and seriousness of the evil caused and seeking the root of the problem, it also commits us to recognize the acting and operating power of the Holy Spirit in so many lives. Without looking at this, we would remain half-way there and we could enter into a logic that far from seeking to empower what is good and remedy what is wrong, it would partialize the reality, falling into grave injustice.
Accepting the successes, as well as the personal and communal limitations, far from being just one more news item, becomes the initial kickoff of every authentic process of conversion and transformation. Let us never forget that Jesus Christ risen presents himself to his own with his wounds. Moreover, it is precisely from his wounds that Thomas can confess his faith. We are invited to not dissimulate, hide, or cover over our wounds.
A wounded Church is able to understand and be moved by the wounds of today’s world, make them its own, suffer them, accompany them and move to heal them. A wounded Church does not put itself at the center, does not think it is perfect, does not seek to cover up and dissimulate its evil, but places there the only one who can heal the wounds and he has a name: Jesus Christ.
This certainty is that which will move us to seek in season and out of season, the commitment to create a culture where each person has the right to breathe an air free of every kind of abuse. A culture free of the cover ups which end up vitiating all our relationships. A culture which in the face of sin creates a dynamic of repentance, mercy and forgiveness, and in face of crime, accusation, judgment and sanction.
7. Dear brothers, I began this letter telling you that appealing to you is not a practical recourse or a gesture of goodwill, on the contrary it is to invoke the anointing which as the People of God you possess. With you the necessary steps for ecclesial renewal and conversion will be able to be taken, that will be sound and long term. With you the necessary transformation can be generated that is so needed. Without you nothing can be done. I exhort all the faithful Holy People of God who live in Chile to not be afraid to get involved and go forward moved by the Holy Spirit in search of a Church which is increasingly more synodal, prophetic and hopeful; less abusive because it knows how to place Jesus at the center, in the hungry, the prisoner, the migrant, and the abused.
I ask you to not cease praying for me. I pray for you and I ask Jesus to bless you and the Virgin to care for you.
Vatican May 31, 2018, Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady.
Cf. Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops of Chile following the report of His Excellency Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, April 8, 2018
BENEDICT XVI Deus Caritas Est, 16.
Cf. Meeting of the Holy Father Francis with priests, men and women religious, consecrated men and women, seminarians, Cathedral of Santiago de Chile, January 16, 2018.
 Cf. FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, 278
Cf. VATICAN COUNCIL II, Lumen Gentium, 9.
Cf. Meeting of the Holy Father Francis with young people at National Shrine of Maipú, January 28, 2017
Cf. FRANCIS, Gaudate et Exsultate, 96
Cf. FRANCIS, Homily at Solemnity of Pentecost Mass 2018
It is good to recognize some of the organizations and media that have taken up the issue of abuse in a responsible way, always seeking the truth and not making out of this painful reality a means to boost program ratings.
Cf. FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, 227
“The Lord said ‘I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering’.” Ex 3:7
Let us remember that this was the first word-commandment that the people of Israel received from Yahweh: “Listen Israel” (Dt 6:4)
Cf. Visit of the Holy Father Francis to the Women’s Correctional Center, Santiago de Chile, January 16, 2018
Cf. FRANCIS, Gaudete et Exsultate, 47-59
Cf. FRANCIS, Gaudete et Exsultate, 44
It is essential to carry out the much needed in the centers of formation promoted by the recent Apostolic Constitution Veritates Gaudium. By way of example, I emphasize that “in fact, are called to offer opportunities and processes for the suitable formation of priests, consecrated men and women, and committed lay people. At the same time, they are called to be a sort of providential cultural laboratory in which the Church carries out the performative interpretation of the reality brought about by the Christ event and nourished by the gifts of wisdom and knowledge by which the Holy Spirit enriches the People of God in manifold ways – from the sensus fidei fidelium to the magisterium of the bishops, and from the charism of the prophets to that of the doctors and theologians. FRANCIS, Veritates Gaudium, 3
PAUL Vl, Evangelii Nuntiandi,48.
Cf. FRANCIS, Gaudete et Exsultate,6-9.
Cf. FRANCIS, Gaudete et Exsultate,76, 79, 82.
Cf. FRANCIS Evangelii Gaudium,76
Cf. Meeting of the Holy Father Francis with priests, men and women religious, consecrated men and women, seminarians, Cathedral of Santiago de Chile, January 16, 2018.