Nigerian-born nun, Sister Veronica Openibo, is one of the three women to address the bishops attending the historical summit on sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy.
Sister Openibo did not take it for granted, and she took the opportunity to let her voice be heard.
Using a clear, direct, and unapologetic language, Sister Openkbk challenged the church’s culture of silence on sexual abuse issues and said that priests are too often put on pedestals.
Speaking in front of the Pope and renowned bishops around the world, Openibo criticized the culture of allowing elderly clergy who are tied with sexual abuse of children to retire without consequences, quietly, with a pension, and an intact reputation.
“Let us not hide such events anymore because of the fear of making mistakes,” Openibo said after reading a heartbreaking summary of abuse cases she has heard and documented during her work on sexual education in Nigeria.
“Too often we want to keep silent until the storm has passed! This storm will not pass by. Our credibility is at stake.”
At one point, Openibo appeared to look toward Pope Francis, who was sitting on the dais to her right, when calling for a policy of “zero tolerance” toward clergy who abuse children.
In calling for ‘zero tolerance,’ Sister Openibo echoed the calls of dozens of clergy sexual abuse survivors gathered for protests and vigils on the streets of Vatican City this week.
As she makes her composed speech, she addressed the Pope as ‘Brother Francis.’
Openibo said she admired the Pope’s honesty and willingness to admit mistakes he made in evaluating the claims of Chilean abuse survivors about a notorious priest who was defrocked last year, and the bishops who covered up his crimes.
“Thank you for providing this opportunity for us to check and see where we have acted strangely, ignorantly, secretly and complacently,” she said.
Openibo said that she is grateful to the Pope for allowing her to appear in front of the assembly of
Openibo also thanked the Pope for allowing her to190 Catholic leaders, 114 of whom are bishops and cardinals from around the world, and making her story be known. About a dozen of the participants are women, most Superiors General of religious orders.
“Usually, it is just the men who come,” Openibo said with a smile. /apr