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Bishop DiMarzio to hold mass for sex abuse survivors

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is coming to a Bensonhurst church to celebrate a special mass aimed at helping survivors of sexual abuse heal from their ordeal.

DiMarzio, the spiritual leader of the Brooklyn Catholic Diocese, will be the main celebrant at the Mass of Hope and Healing on Tuesday, April 30, at Saint Athanasius Church, 2154 61st St., at 7 p.m. The Rev. Jeffry Dillon will deliver the homily at the mass.

“Certainly, due to the heightened media attention around the sexual abuse crisis facing the Catholic Church, I believe this year’s mass will be very important and significant for all those who participate,” DiMarzio said in a statement.

“As we continue to learn even more about the abuse crisis, it becomes even more disturbing,” DiMarzio added.

In February, the Brooklyn Catholic Diocese released a list of more than 100 priests in the diocese who either had credible charges of sexual abuse leveled against them or who were hit with accusations but died before the accusations could be fully investigated.

The list, which spanned the 166-year history of the Brooklyn Catholic Diocese, also included the names of priests who were convicted, who admitted to sexual misconduct with a minor or who have had allegations leveled against them that were determined credible by the Independent Diocesan Review Board.

The Mass of Hope and Healing, which is now in its fifth year, is a unique event in the church, according to officials of the diocese, who pointed out that sex abuse survivors plan the service. In a new feature this year, members of the Diocesan Survivors Advisory Committee will light an Easter candle and pray for sex abuse victims who died this year.

Jasmine Salazar, the vice-chancellor and victim assistance coordinator for the diocese, said the advisory committee takes a strong hand in planning the healing mass.

“The Mass of Hope and Healing was instituted because there was a need for something more, to let the survivors and victims know that the church cares and is here for them. Each year, the members of the Diocesan Survivors Advisory Committee commit themselves to plan the specific details of this mass, to make this a very special experience that is sensitive to survivors and that also speaks to survivors,” Salazar said in a statement.

The list released in February shows that the number of incidents of priest sexual abuse peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, according to officials. Many of these incidents were reported years after they had taken place. The victims came forward after the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002. The number of reported incidents peaked again in 2017, according to officials.

“I have met with many victims who have told me that more than anything, they want an acknowledgment of what was done to them. This list gives that recognition and I hope it will add another layer of healing for them on their journey toward wholeness,” DiMarzio stated at the time the list was released.

In 2017, the diocese started the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, to reach financial settlements with victims. The program is administered by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, whose firm handled the 9/11 Compensation Fund.

Since 2002, the diocese has shared all of its files and allegations against priests with the district attorneys of Brooklyn and Queens. The Brooklyn diocese covers both boroughs.

In 2004, DiMarzio established a telephone hotline for anyone to report allegations of sexual abuse. The phone number is 1-888-634-4499.

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