The Archbishop of Westminster has issued a video showing penitence for the Catholic Church's devastating sins of clerical sex abuse.
In the video, made on the fifth Friday in Lent, 3 April, Cardinal Vincent Nichols prays for the victims and survivors of abuse, particularly childhood abuse.
That Friday in Lent has been declared a special day of prayer dedicated to this intention.
Cardinal Nichols meditates using images from the High Stations on the hill above the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
"Our Lady requested of Bernadette that people should come to Lourdes to do Penance so this is how we focus our hearts and minds today," he said. "It’s important for the Church to acknowledge and respond in prayer, rather than restrict its activities to just one day of the year, but on this day the Fifth Friday of Lent, we pray for the those who have suffered."
He had hoped to make the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral on the specially-designated day for victims and survivors of abuse. "But I can't go in the cathdral," he said.
So instead he made the stations at his home in neighbouring Archbishop's House, shorn of the pomp, vestments and adornments that are a feature of high clerical office even during Lent. He appears with a simple crucifix in the background.
The unusual nature of the video means that even though he is necessarily alone and social distancing, he actually comes across as speaking more intimately and openly than he does in many of his official appearances, thereby revealing in a new way, a heartfelt penitence for the travesties of clerical sex abuse.
Cardinal Nichols invites viewers of the video to make the journey with him, "remembering in the first place that abuse, especially childhood abuse, is a condemnation. It is a condemnation of somebody to a life in which vital aspects of their personality have been damaged. And they are hard to recover."
He describes abuse as "a cross, a burden, that people then carry for the rest of their lives". And he also acknowledges that the burden spreads to families, when finally it is spoken about. "Then those circles of pain widen, and include more and more people."
He continues: "Let us ask the Lord's forgiveness, and flowing from that the forgiveness of others, for the negligence that we have shown, for those perpetrators who have caused so much hurt and damage, and let us also make this way of the cross, a moment in which we deepen our resolve to understand the experience, the point of view, the depth of hurt of the victim and the survivor. And we should do our utmost not only to support them, but to continue steadfastly to take all those steps necessary to protect people, to learn from our mistakes and carry on this work of safeguarding in the Church."
He goes on to pray the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary and more as he journeys along the 14 stations, and says he accepts the burden of the Cross. "You have died for love of me. I will die for love of you..... I repent with my whole heart for having offended you."