2012-02-07 Vatican RadioAn international conference on how Churches around the world should be dealing with sexual abuse by clergy opens here in Rome on Monday evening at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Bishops conferences from across the globe have sent representatives to the four day meeting which hopes to draw up a coordinated response in preventing the crime of abuse and supporting survivors.
The superior general of the Society of Jesus, Fr Adolfo Nicolas will welcome participants at the inaugural session, followed by a keynote address from Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Philippa Hitchen is following the symposium….
Many Church leaders in Europe, Australia or North America have been dealing with the sex abuse crisis for many years and most of them have already drawn up guidelines on how to prevent, educate and support the victims of such abuse. Here in the Vatican too, some church leaders have increasingly been working towards a more consistent response to the problem, most notably in a letter sent last May by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to all bishops’ conferences on how to ensure that appropriate action is being taken in dioceses throughout the world.
That includes spiritual, practical and psychiatric support for victims, awareness raising in parish, schools and other places where children or vulnerable adults are at risk, better training in seminaries and religious institutes – all issues that will be tackled during the closed door symposium for bishops and religious superiors.
Above all, as Msgr Charles Scicluna, expert on the abuse crisis at the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explains, all church leaders must be clear that the protection of children is a paramount concern for the Church:
“There cannot be a distinction between the good of the Church and the protection of the young..”
That’s also the view of Marie Collins, one of the participants at the conference who was abused as a young girl by an Irish hospital chaplain. She says she hopes the symposium will move from words to action but she says the safety of children must become the church’s top priority
“As a survivor, I have criticised the Church a lot, but we must move forward and the most important thing – the only thing that matters – is the safety of children”
The conference will conclude with the launch of a Centre for the Protection of Children, based in Pope Benedict’s former diocese of Munich. Offering online resources in at least five languages, the centre will be funded by the Papal Foundation and other sponsors to help church leaders respond fast and effectively to one of the most serious challenges facing their leadership today.