Bishop holds day of prayer and penance amid abuse scandal

Rhode Island's Roman Catholic bishop held a day of prayer and penance on Friday to ask God's forgiveness for the sins of sexual abuse committed against children worldwide.

Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin presided over a special Mass in Providence at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Rhode Island is heavily Catholic.

During the homily, Tobin asked for forgiveness and for healing of all who have been wounded. Tobin said he wanted to address the abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church because he recognizes the anger, pain and confusion many Catholics are feeling.

"Our commitment to end the scourge of sexual abuse doesn't end with prayer, but it is important to begin here," Tobin said.

Tobin also fasted, which he said was in penance for his "faults and failures as a Christian, priest and bishop" and for the "sins and failures" of priests and bishops related to the sexual abuse of minors.

Tobin has said that he was aware of incidents of sexual abuse reported to church officials while working in Pennsylvania, but that it wasn't his job to deal with them. He was auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh from 1992 until 1996. A Pennsylvania grand jury report recently detailed decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses.

Lorraine Savard protested outside the Mass. The 69-year-old retired teacher took issue with the church asking for forgiveness.

"They're in there asking for forgiveness for something that's ongoing," she said. "Give me a break."

About 150 people attended the Mass. They prayed for abuse victims, for church leaders as they promote justice and for Catholics whose faith has been shaken.

Afterward, parishioner Cindy Delle Donne said that the church's response is not enough for those directly affected by the scandal, but she personally felt it was important to attend the Mass.

"They're making an effort and I think that should be applauded," said Delle Donne, a 77-year-old retired nurse. "It is sad that it was allowed to go on for so long."

Dozens of parishioners remained in their pews after the Mass concluded to reflect and pray.