Homily – Mass for Victims and Survivors of Abuse

Thursday 6th May 2021

On Thursday 6th May 2021, Bishop John said a special Mass at Salford Cathedral to mark a Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse. Below, you can read his Homily.

If we are going to be sincere about that sense of apology, we can’t just leave it with words. Apologies must be followed by action. And whilst I hesitate to use the word celebration, I think there are things for which we need to give thanks. First of all, that we recognise that there has been abuse, there is abuse, in our society and in our Church and that is not to be tolerated. But for so long it seems to have been either hidden or ignored – who knows what – but now much is spoken about it and it is measured and understood in all its diverse forms. That’s a major step in itself. But that, in itself, is not enough. There needs to be that response.

First of all, to the victims. Those we are going to be praying for at this Mass. Those who are directly affected by abuse and those family and friends who have also been affected because people they love have been abused and damaged. We need to care for them and recognise the damage done to them in their lives, damage that needs a constant sense of continuing healing.

Then we have got to be sure that we keep our young people and our vulnerable people safe. We should all be safe. Pope Francis talks about everything being connected and speaks very often about the dignity of the human person. That dignity includes that sense of safety, which is not just for ourselves but about the 100 million people who are refugees or internally displaced in our world. We have to think of those who are denied sustainable, they’ve lost their dignity, we are denying them their dignity. Then we’ve got that dignity of keeping people safe. Safe from all forms of abuse, wide ranging abuse, and then we’ve got to act to protect the society in which we live. I am so pleased with the standards set here in the Diocese of Salford by our own Safeguarding team. I think those expectations and standards are very high indeed, but I’m also glad that those standards are not seen in any way as a solution. That through Healing through Community we have close association with Greater Manchester Rape Crisis and Survivors Manchester which gives us different ways, different means, of effectively bringing healing, calm and peace to those who have been damaged and that way we can be much more aware.

In that Gospel passage, let’s just bless ourselves for moment with those disciples, they must have been terrified. Yes they were fisherman  they probably were very well versed in how to sail but the Sea of Galilee is known for its unchangeable storms in which many people died in those times of Jesus. Out there in the middle with a storm which could so easily destroy boats and fishermen. And here we have that sense that these disciples were terrified for themselves and Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat and it’s only when the disciples go to wake him up that things have changed. Waking up Jesus. Is that what we do when we go to prayer, that we say we need your help, and to be sure that he responds so generously – saying yes I’m here, what’s the problem? Have you not got faith in me?

Perhaps in matters of dealing with safeguarding of abuse we need to be prepared to wake up Jesus. We use that prayer Stay with us, Lord, on our Journey so much in this diocese. It means that we’re never alone, that we can count on Christ to guide us and to be with us in all our troubles.

Since Easter in our daily Masses and our Sunday Masses we’ve been reading a lot about the Acts of the Apostles. There’s some very important lessons to be learned there about the challenge that the Church has faced right from the beginning. How do we deal with this problem with our Church, what’s the next step forward in our Mission, how do we establish Church, who do we go to, who should be saying what to who? The Church continued to grow and to be served through particular challenges and in the Acts of the Apostles and they didn’t always get it right. There were some real problems, but that’s the life of the Church and we must never allow ourselves to see the Church as something static that can’t change. The Church must face problems both within and without, and we must do that by waking up Jesus and asking him to walk with us.

Stay with us, Lord, on our Journey so that the good work that has begun may continue, that we may recognise the challenges that are there today. I’m very grateful to those people who are committed to the highest standards of safeguarding, let’s promote what they do and enjoy being active in helping them to establish those procedures and actions that we need to keep everybody safe and to bring healing to those who have been affected.

If anyone requires further support, our Safeguarding team can be contacted on 0161 817 2206. Alternatively, support from Healing Through Community can be accessed directly by calling either Survivors Manchester (0161 236 2182) or Greater Manchester Rape Crisis (0161 273 4500)

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