Bishop calls for day of prayer, penance as Church faces 'dark days'

Says only Pope Francis can heal the divide in the Catholic Church

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PROVIDENCE — Acknowledging the difficult times the Church is experiencing as many Catholics feel anger, pain and confusion over recent allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, and the negligence of bishops in dealing with the crisis, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has called for a day of prayer and penance on Friday, Sept. 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Christ.

The event will begin with the noon Mass at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, and will be followed by three hours of Eucharistic Adoration, concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 3 p.m.

The bishop will also engage in a personal penance to atone for the failure of the Church to protect minors.

“I will undertake a personal 24-hour fast from 8 a.m. on Friday, the 14th until 8 a.m. on Saturday, the 15th in penance for my own faults and failures as a Christian, priest and bishop, as well as for the sins and failures of all priests and bishops related to the sexual abuse of minors,” Bishop Tobin said in a statement.

He reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining a safe and secure environment for young people.

“My commitment to provide a safe environment for children and youth in the Diocese of Providence, to purge the Church of these horrible acts and to respond compassionately to all those who have been harmed remains firm. May God forgive us our sins and grant us the grace to follow a path of reform and renewal,” he said.

During the tumultuous two-week period following the release of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s report — which detailed in its 1,300 pages some 70 years of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of clergy — a new Church crisis erupted when the former apostolic nuncio to the United States called on Pope Francis to step down.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò called on Pope Francis to resign after accusing him of trying to rehabilitate embattled retired Washington, D.C., Archbishop and former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick against the directives placed earlier by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.

Within days Archbishop Viganò’s assertions against Pope Francis were themselves being challenged by other prelates in unprecedented fashion, with the narrative continuing to develop.

Bishop Tobin said that while he does not have any privileged information about the matter, he called for Pope Francis to answer his former nuncio’s charges and begin to heal the divide that has left the faithful seeking answers.

“The present impasse in the Church, unfolding on an international level, has caused confusion and division among the faithful, even locally. Only Pope Francis can resolve the serious crisis in which the Church now finds herself, and I respectfully urge His Holiness to address this matter as soon as possible. The future direction of the Church, its spiritual welfare and the faith of God’s people are at stake,” Bishop Tobin said in a statement.

The bishop reflected on the Church’s established hierarchy and the need to remember that despite current challenges, Pope Francis remains the duly elected Bishop of Rome.

“He is the Vicar of Christ, our Supreme Pastor and our spiritual father,” he said. “Regardless of our perception of current events, the Holy Father needs and deserves our respect, our prayers and our attention, now as much as ever. Members of a family do not abandon their father, even in difficult times.”