Pope Francis has penned a letter to US Bishops concerning the abuse crisis as they gather for a weeklong spiritual retreat to reflect and pray on the scandals that have rocked the Church.

In the letter, Pope Francis writes that he wants to address the “crisis of credibility that you are experiencing as a Church” with a “change of mindset,” and that “clearly a living fabric has come undone, and we, like weavers, are called to repair it.”

The Holy Father encouraged the bishops on retreat in their prayer, and in the steps they are taking to “combat the culture of abuse.” He addressed not only the “sins and crimes” of abuse, but “even more the efforts to deny or conceal them.”

“This has led to a growing sense of uncertainty, distrust and vulnerability among the faithful.”

Pope Francis also addressed what he called the sense of “division and dispersion” among US Bishops in the wake of the abuse crisis, that serves to threaten “fraternal communion.” Instead, they should abandon the “modus operandi of disparaging, discrediting, playing the victim or the scold in our relationships.”

Regretfully unable to attend, Francis said he still wished to “reflect with the American bishops on some aspects I consider important,” and to offer encouragement for “the steps they are taking” which will require “wisdom, prayer, much listening, and fraternal communion.”

In closing, he challenged the bishops to restore holiness and regain trust, trust evidenced by “humble and generous service to all, but especially to those dearest to the Lord’s heart.”

The letter was shared on January 2nd as approximately 280 bishops began their weeklong retreat called by Pope Francis at Mundelein seminary. In response, the USCCB issued a statement concerning the letter, where Cardinal DiNardo said “we carry with us these days the pain and hope of all who may feel let down by the Church” and “we seek to find the wisdom and strength necessary to meet the great challenges ahead.”

You can read the full text of Pope Francis’ eight page letter to the US bishops here, on the USCCB website as a PDF.

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