Bilbao (EFE).- The Church of Bizkaia held a specific religious act this Friday to recognize, support and ask for forgiveness from the victims of abusers who “have been one of us -said the bishop-“, in the first act of this type that is organized in Spain.
The joint prayer in the Bilbao cathedral was presided over by the bishop, Joseba Segura, and concelebrated by the priest Josu López Villalba, a retired priest who suffered abuse at the Derio Seminary in 1954.
“We recognize that there have been abusers among us, that they are also part of our history, of what we have been, of what we have done. They do not define everything that we have been, rather they reflect the opposite of what we have wanted to be and do”, said the bishop.
“They have been one of ours, and we recognize it that way” because, as he later said, “only assuming all our history, the good and the bad, can we be witnesses of the full truth. Only then will we be able, when the victims allow us, to say that we have learned and that it will never again be possible for any detestable abuse to occur within the Christian community or in any of its works. May God help us to achieve it ”, he wished.
The bishop declared that “the pain of the victims, their psychological damage, can begin to heal if we know those directly responsible for their pain, if we are capable of offering safe spaces to listen to them, to accompany them, to defend them if necessary”.
The prelate has considered that this recognition “does not want to close anything” but “this request for forgiveness is necessary because some victims have requested it, but it is not enough.”
For this reason, he has promised to keep communication channels open, including his personal one, for other victims who have not yet contacted the Bishopric.
During the act, six victims have placed lighted candles on the altar of the cathedral while testimonies of their stories were read to the Bishopric commission that has dealt with these cases.
In these statements they have made clear the humiliation they have experienced and the feeling of guilt they harbored despite being the victims.
One of them, who suffered abuse from the director of a religious boarding school in Bilbao, has read her own testimony and has assured that “there are sins that cannot be forgiven” and that she hopes to meet her abuser in the other life to ask him “why so much evil with helpless children” and “why, if you are a pedophile, did you become a priest and stain the good name of the Church and its God and destroy the innocent lives of children -he added-“.
Then, in one of the cathedral’s chapels, the bishop blessed the olive tree and the plaque that will commemorate the victims of sexual abuse in the Biscayan Church.
The plaque, which will be placed in the cloister of the cathedral, has the inscription “In memory of all the victims of sexual abuse in our Church” and the biblical quote (Matthew 25.40) “What one of these little ones you did, you did it to me.”
The olive tree, one of the most symbolic trees for Christianity, will be planted in the Bosque de la Concordia of the Derio Seminary of the diocese, one of the religious centers in Bizkaia where the most abuses occurred in the decades of the 50s, 60s and 70 of the last century.
The Commission for the Prevention of Abuses of the Diocese of Bilbao Commission has opened 55 cases of assaults on minors since it was launched in 2019, affecting 15 religious, of whom 14 have already died.
In addition, the Lagungo service (company, help) of the diocese of Bilbao has cared for 13 victims of abuse, of which 8 have undergone treatment, 2 are being assessed and 3 are from other dioceses.
Before the act, Juan Cuatrecasas, the father of a young man from Biscay who suffered abuse at the Gaztelueta del Opus school, told the press that the initiative is a “positive gesture but there is more work to be done. Asking for forgiveness is a positive act, but the circle must be closed with recognition, reparation and accompaniment”.
In his opinion, the Biscayan Church “is on the right track unlike the rest of the dioceses, denialists or who stay halfway.”