Catholic dioceses in California are offering special prayers and Masses in observation of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, an annual event established in 1981 to draw attention to the people and families whose lives have been affected by violent crime. Please attribute this statement to the Most Rev. Richard Garcia, bishop of Monterey, the Most Rev. Armando Ochoa, bishop of Fresno, and the Most Reverend David O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, members of the Restorative Justice Committee of the California Catholic Conference:
“The effects of crime can linger long after a person’s physical wounds have healed. The people and families affected need to know that they are not alone, that someone will walk with them, and that they can turn to their Church and to their community for the help and support and the prayers they need.
“Healing doesn’t stop with arresting and prosecuting offenders. It’s a process, centered on the victim, aimed at restoring their sense of safety, their sense of security and their sense of self.
“That process is called ‘restorative justice’ and it has two goals—to help victims and their families heal from the traumatic effects of violent crime and to break the cycle of crime and increase public safety by helping offenders rehabilitate and reintegrate with their families and communities.“
“Every California diocese has an Office of Restorative Justice to provide healing and support for anyone who is affected by the criminal justice system. It focuses first on the victim and the community harmed by the crime, but also on the perpetrator, insisting that criminal offenders come to grips with, and take responsibility for, the consequences of their actions. The perpetrator’s family is also taken into consideration, as they are often victims themselves.
“During Victim’s Week, California dioceses actively work to promote healing individuals and communities. Activities range from candlelight vigils at the downtown Cathedral in Sacramento to an interfaith prayer for peace in the Diocese of San Jose to ‘Common Ground for Peace’ night walks held in the Diocese of San Bernardino.
“As Pope Francis reminds us ‘With the Cross, Jesus unites himself to the silence of the victims of violence, those who can no longer cry out, especially the innocent and the defenseless; with the Cross, he is united to families in trouble, and those who mourn the tragic loss of their children.’”
The California Catholic Conference (www.cacatholic.org) represents the Catholic community in the State’s public policy arena. There are nearly 12 million Catholics in California and the Catholic Church is the largest private provider of health care, social services and education in California. Those Catholic institutions include 42 hospitals, which annually assist 7.7 million patients; 12 colleges and universities, which enroll 48,600 students; 115 Catholic high schools, which serve 73,000 students; 558 Catholic elementary schools, which enroll 162,000 children; and the 12 diocesan Catholic Charities agencies.