SFX first mass for the victims of abuse

Fr Denis Blackledge SJ on the altar of St Francis Xavier's
Fr Denis Blackledge SJ on the altar of St Francis Xavier's

On Tuesday 2nd October, St Francis Xavier's church in Liverpool celebrated its first Mass dedicated to remembering all victims of abuse. This was seen as an opportunity to raise awareness, as well as offering support and comfort.

In August, Pope Francis had published a Letter to the People of God in which he unequivocally condemned both the abuse of minors and the failure to hold perpetrators to account.

The Holy Father invited the Church to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting: “Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does.”

A few days later, Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, released a statement on sharing the suffering of victims of abuse and fostering a culture of protection. He encouraged Major Superiors, Community Superiors and Directors of Apostolic Works to “share initiatives and actions within the apostolic body of the Society, with other groups of the People of God, and with other persons of good will committed to the eradication of this evil. In this way we will learn from others and make more efficacious the process of cultural change to which we desire to contribute.”

In St Francis Xavier church parish priest Fr Denis Blackledge SJ and his assistant Fr Joe Duggan SJ led the first of a series of monthly Masses to be offered for the victims of abuse.

Debbie Reynolds, the Pastoral Assistant, had prepared the church with a small display of information leaflets describing how to get help in case of any form of abuse, and had decorated the altar area with two small candle stands.

“Instead of bidding prayers, each member of the congregation was encouraged to come up to light a candle or two for people they knew who had been abused,” explained Fr Denis. “I had composed a prayer for victims of abuse especially for use at the Mass, and all are welcome to use this prayer, provided they recognise its copyright.”

This is the prayer he made:

Loving Lord,
as the family of the Church
we ask forgiveness for any words or acts
that have in any way abused
a sister or brother of ours.
We remember especially
all innocent children
whose lives have been soiled and spoiled
by sexual abuse.
We pray for all vulnerable adults
who have been abused in any way.
Help each one of us always
to act with deep reverence and respect
towards all we meet and greet.
We ask this through Jesus,
friend of children,
champion of the vulnerable.
Amen.