Pope Francis prays before a Candle of Atonement in Dublin's St Mary's pro-Cathedral, August 2019

First Friday of Lent, churches to mark Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse

February 15, 2021

The First Friday of Lent will see dozens of local churches gathered together in prayer for victims and survivors of abuse, for their families and their communities.

In late 2016, Pope Francis wrote to bishops’ conferences around the world asking they choose an appropriate moment during the liturgical year to observe an annual national Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse with the community of faithful.

The Day of Prayer was proposed by Pope Francis to local churches following input from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (TutelaMinorum).

Working closely with victims/survivors in the development of safeguarding polices and practices, TutelMinorum was made aware of the importance of prayer as one part of the healing process for survivors and the community of believers.  One survivor specifically proposed an annual Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors.

TutelaMinorum believes public prayer is also an important way to raise awareness throughout the Church about the reality of abuse, to foster attention to safeguarding and counter complacency with regards the need for vigilance and prevention.

Over the past four years many Bishops Conferences – and individual diocese –  have taken steps to enact the proposal.

In Australia, the Church throughout the country marks the Day of Prayer on Sunday September 11, in conjunction with their National Day for Child Protection.

The Southern African Bishops Conferences [SACBC] have embraced the proposal dedicating three days to the initiative culminating on the second Sunday of Advent.

Many European Churches – from Spain, to Switzerland – have instead linked the initiative to the Sunday closest to World Children’s Day on November 20. Others still – such as France and Belgium – have established national annual days of prayer and fasting for people who have been abused.

Candles of Atonement will be lit in Cathedrals and parishes in Ireland to mark the Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of abuse on the First Friday of Lent. The church in Scotland and also in Poland will also hold special liturgies on Friday February 19th.

In our Outreach section TutelaMinorum offers texts to assist those local churches still in the process of developing a National Day with resources for prayer services and penitential liturgies, produced by our Safeguarding partners around the world.

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