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Archbishop George J. Lucas kneels during the penitential rite with Deacon Mark White of St. Matthew the Evangelist Parish in Bellevue as part of a Dec. 5 prayer service at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha for victims of sexual and other forms of abuse. Photo by Mike May/Staff.

Archbishop prays with victims of abuse

Victims of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, their family members, friends and others were invited to join Archbishop George J. Lucas Dec. 5 to pray for comfort and healing.

The prayer service drew more than two dozen people to St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha. It included a penitential rite, intercessory prayers, Scripture readings and sacred music.

And, in his homily, the archbishop offered an apology on behalf of the church to anyone who has experienced sexual abuse by a priest, deacon or any church worker or volunteer.

"There is no way to give back what is lost, and I am sorry," he said. "I offer my commitment, and our corporate commitment as a church here in this archdiocese, to protect the young and the vulnerable in our care.

"The means to keep this commitment have been in place for a number of years," the archbishop said, "and we keep looking for the best ways to make the protection more thorough."

"The perpetrators of evil have betrayed trust and violated their responsibility, and in many cases have blocked victims from seeing God," he said, "but God has not lost sight of them."

"No matter the hardship, no matter the harm visited on us, we’re never out of God’s loving care," the archbishop said. "Each of you is dear to God and precious in his sight."

He emphasized that, in one’s pain, the healing and comforting presence of God is always there. "Jesus is not only the savior of the world; he is your savior, he’s mine," the archbishop said.

In addressing Mary at the Annunciation, the angel used Jesus’ title – Emmanuel, God with us, he said. "What we celebrate this season of Advent and Christmas is God with us."

Jesus made himself small and humble so he could enter the small, humble, hurting parts of our lives, the archbishop said.

The prayer service began with a reading by Mary Beth Hanus, manager of the Victim Outreach and Prevention Office of the Omaha archdiocese, expressing regret for any abuse done to young people or vulnerable adults by members of the church.

"I’m so moved that we’ve done this," Hanus said after the service. "Healing is in the Lord and there are people who have been hurt by the church, so it’s nice to be able to honor them and to pray with them."

Noting that the archdiocese is doing a good job of preventing abuse, Hanus said: "We are always looking at what we can do better and how we can reach out to people who are hurting."

Kristine Woods, a member of Our Lady of Peace Parish at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, said she came to pray for victims of abuse, and that it was good for the archdiocese to acknowledge the importance of this sensitive topic.

"It was a calm and peaceful event," she said, and the penitential aspect of the service fit with the Advent season’s spirit of introspection, waiting and hope.

In concluding his homily, the archbishop said: "We pray that we might let Jesus into those places that need healing, those parts of us that need saving, so he can do for us what he will never do against our will, what he desires to do – so he can heal and save us and lift us up to glory."

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