- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Following are excerpts from Pope John Paul II's speech yesterday to U.S. cardinals gathered at the Vatican:

Dear Brothers,
Let me assure you first of all that I greatly appreciate the effort you are making to keep the Holy See, and me personally, informed regarding the complex and difficult situation which has arisen in your country in recent months. I am confident that your discussions here will bear much fruit for the good of the Catholic people of the United States. You have come to the house of the successor of Peter, whose task it is to confirm his brother bishops in faith and love, and to unite them around Christ in the service of God's people.
Like you, I too have been deeply grieved by the fact that priests and religious, whose vocation it is to help people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused such suffering and scandal to the young. Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the church's leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter. The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern.
A great work of art may be blemished, but its beauty remains; and this is a truth which any intellectually honest critic will recognize.
The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young.
People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. They must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life.
We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force.
I beg the Lord to give the bishops of the United States the strength to build their response to the present crisis upon the solid foundations of faith and upon genuine pastoral charity for the victims, as well as for the priests and the entire Catholic community in your country. And I ask Catholics to stay close to their priests and bishops, and to support them with their prayers at this difficult time.

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