The bishops of France voted, during the Plenary Assembly of March 2021, the creation of an annual day of memory and prayer for the victims of “violence, sexual assault, abuse of power and conscience”. . During its first edition last year, Mgr Luc Crepy, Bishop of Versailles, saw it as a means of “keeping alive the memory of the acts committed in the Church so as not to forget the crimes and the still current suffering of the victims”.
This day takes “now a permanent place in the liturgical calendar, on the third Friday of Lent”. This March 17, the bishops invite dioceses and parishes to “organize, with the faithful, one or more highlights around memory and prayer for all victims”.
An animation file summarizing all the “proposals” suggested by the Church for these memorial times – which will last until March 19 in certain parishes – is available on the website of the Catholic Church of France. In addition to measures such as the adaptation of the universal prayer or the Stations of the Cross by Catholic theologian Katherine Shirk Lucas, the file has been updated this year to offer activities for the youngest in particular.
Proposals for young people
Primary school children are thus invited to take part in a “time of prayer and prevention” around the animated film La Petite casserole d’Anatole directed by Eric Monchaud. Young people over the age of 15 can take part in a moment of “prayer and film-debate” based on the film Les Chatouilles by Andréa Bescond.
On the ground, the parishes are getting organized. Thus, that of Sainte-Marie de Doulon in Nantes offers a way of the cross on Friday March 17, at 6 p.m. in the basilica of Saint-Donatien and Saint-Rogatien. “People are sensitive to this event and there are many requests,” explains the parish priest, Father Bernard Ollivier. In addition to the Stations of the Cross, the parish will include “in the celebration of the Eucharist this weekend the proposal of the universal prayer of the animation file”.
A way of the cross is also proposed at the basilica of Fourvière in Lyon, on March 17 at 3 p.m. In most dioceses, masses will be celebrated for this intention as in Bordeaux, in the chapel of the diocesan house at 12:15 p.m.
Stations of the Cross, debate or play
In addition to prayer time, some communities innovate. The Marseille diocesan service “Acting against abuse” invites its parishioners to a discussion on the progress of the Church, one year after the Ciase report, at the Center Le Mistral, at 8 p.m. In Lille, a play entitled “Pardon” was performed upstream, on March 12 in the Saint-Vaast d’Armentières church.
However, not all the parishes take part in this day, for lack of initiatives or communication. Thus, in one of the parishes of the diocese of Évry, it is explained not to have “been informed”.
Brigitte Navail, member of the Faith and Resilience collective, regrets that “many parishes have still not agreed on what they were going to do on March 17”. She welcomes the events but regrets that the day takes place on a Friday and not a Sunday. “If we say that it is also the body of the Church that has been attacked by these abuses, then the day should have taken place on a Sunday, around the celebration of the Eucharist,” she explains.
Like other victims of abuse, she regrets a lack of initiative from the dioceses – “They don’t need to wait for a national initiative to do their part of the job”. But nevertheless hopes that this memorial day of March 17 will be an opportunity “to not only do prevention and protection, but to allow a deeper change in our practices and the functioning of the Church”.