Pope Addresses ‘Shame’ Of Clergy Abuse At St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The pontiff also warned against luxury and greed.

Headshot of Antonia BlumbergAntonia BlumbergAssociate Religion Editor, The Huffington Post

Pope Francis arrived in New York City Thursday night and headed directly to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to take part in evening prayers called vespers.

In his address to priests and members of Catholic parishes, the pontiff touched on the clergy sex abuse crisis, which has racked the Catholic church for decades.

“I know that, as a presbyterate in the midst of God’s people, you suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the church in the most vulnerable of her members,” Francis said. “I accompany you at this time of pain and difficulty, and I thank God for your faithful service to his people.”

The pontiff also offered Catholics a stern warning against luxury and greed, saying that danger comes “when we think that surrounding ourselves with worldly comforts will help us serve better.”

Doing so “alienates people who suffer material poverty and are forced to make greater sacrifices than ourselves,” Francis said. He acknowledged that “moments of leisure” are necessary, but said they should not interfere with the responsibility to serve others.

“Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all God’s other poor, will teach us a different way of resting, one which is more Christian and generous,” the pope said.

Francis encouraged those gathered to embrace a spirit of joy, practice gratitude and serve others with hard work and humility. He noted, in particular, the work of Catholic women whose “spirit of courage” places them on the front lines of the church’s mission to share the gospel.

In an unscripted moment, Pope Francis offered sympathies to Muslims on this holy day of Eid: “I am thinking of them, I’m close to them in the face of the tragedy that they suffered in Mecca.”

Thursday night’s vespers mark the fifth time a pope has visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which recently finished a three-year renovation. The first was Pope Paul VI in 1965, followed by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and 1995. Pope Benedict XVI visited the cathedral in 2008, and, like Francis, prayed for healing from the church’s sex abuse crisis during his address.

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    NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 24: Spectators wait along Fifth Avenue ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis at St. )
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    NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis waves to guests as he exits Saint Patrick’s Cathedral after leading evening Vespers on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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    NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis addresses the congregation during evening Vespers at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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    NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis prepares to lead evening Vespers at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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    WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 24: Cartrice Haynesworth, center, has a selfie taken with Pope Francis, left, as he walks through the crowd during a visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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    WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis greets parishioners, immigrants and clients of Catholic Charities as he arrives at St. Patrick’s Church September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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    WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to pray at St. Patrick’s Church on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis is on a five-day trip to the United States, which includes stops in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia, after a three-day stay in Cuba. St. Patrick’s is the oldest Catholic parish in Washington. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
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    WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 24: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (R) speaks with Pope Francis (L) in the U.S. Capitol building before the Pontiff speaks to a joint meeting of Congress September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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    JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD – SEPTEMBER 22: Pope Francis waves from the back of his Fiat after arriving from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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    JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD – SEPTEMBER 22: Supporters cheer for Pope Francis after he arrived from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as Pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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    JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD – SEPTEMBER 22: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop) Pope Francis (L) is escorted by U.S. President Barack Obama as he greets and other political and Catholic church leaders after arriving from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as Pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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