Philippine church leader says sorry to youth for sex abuse

Bishops' conference chief assures procedures are in place 'to bring justice to all'
Philippine church leader says sorry to youth for sex abuse

Delegates at this year's National Youth Day celebration in the central Philippines pay homage to the blood relic of Pope St. John Paul II. (Photo by Elmarc Lim)

The head of the Philippine Catholic bishops' conference has asked forgiveness for sex abuses committed by members of the clergy, especially against children.

"We bow in shame, we beg for forgiveness," Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao told about 15,000 delegates to this year's National Youth Day celebration in Cebu on April 27.

"We continue to say: We are so sorry and beg for forgiveness from the Lord and from those this hurt and the wrongdoing that has been done," said the prelate during a forum with young people.

The archbishop assured participants of the gathering that Philippine Church leaders are "all committed and do all that we can ... to stop this."

"There are procedures on what to do ... to bring justice to all," he said.

"We are ready to ask for your forgiveness because in this forgiveness is the power of healing, grace coming from the Lord," said the prelate.

Following the Summit on Sexual Abuse at the Vatican in February this year, Archbishop Valles vowed that there will be no cover up of crimes and abuses committed by the clergy.

"We will do whatever we can to protect minors in the Church. You heard me, no hesitation and cover-ups," he said in March.

The Philippines, Asia's biggest Catholic country, has seen sexual abuse charges leveled against its clergy.

In 2002, Philippine Church leaders issued an apology for sexual abuses, including adultery, homosexuality and child abuse by 200 priests over the previous 20 years.

The following year, at least 34 priests were suspended in a sex abuse scandal involving the sexual harassment of women.

Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, papal nuncio to the Philippines, leads the celebration of the closing Mass of the National Youth Day in Cebu on April 28. (Photo by Elmarc Lim)

 

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In his homily at the end of the weeklong celebration, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, papal nuncio to the Philippines, asked Filipino youths to free themselves from "cellphone addiction."

"The mobile phone is a great help. It’s progress. It’s nice that everyone knows how to use it," said the prelate, but added that when "one becomes a slave to the phone, you lose your freedom."

He told participants of the National Youth Day celebration "not to be afraid of silence." He said the first step to reach peace is to start with silence.

Archbishops Caccia and Valles were among at least 20 bishops and hundreds of priests who joined the 15,000 youth delegates at the closing Mass of the event.

Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Youth of the bishops' conference, expressed his gratitude to Cebu Archdiocese for hosting the event.

"We felt the warmth of the Cebuanos and the love, and we also experienced the religiosity from the beginning," said the bishop.

At the end of the celebration, Bishop Jaucian announced that National Youth Day in 2021 will be held in Caceres Archdiocese in the Bicol region. The archdiocese of Caceres covers the province of Camarines Sur, and Naga City and the town of Gainza in the southern Luzon region.

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