Specific issues will be addressed on each day of the event, including episcopal responsibility, accountability, and transparency.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – A press conference was held today to present a meeting on the ‘Protection of Minors in the Church’ that will take place in the Vatican on 21-24 February. The focus will be on responsibility, accountability and transparency.
Card Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, Mgr Charles J. Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and Deputy Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr Federico Lombardi, SI, head of the Ratzinger Foundation, and Fr Hans Zollner, SI, head of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University took part in the presentation.
Father Lombardi, who will moderate the meeting, presented the daily programme: each day is centred on a specific topic: episcopal responsibility, accountability (to whom bishops and major superiors of religious orders must give an account), and transparency.
From Thursday to Saturday three reports will be presented per day to about 190 participants, followed by a Question and Answer session. Three presentations will be by women. Some victims of abuse will meet the Organising Committee and speak about their experience. There will also be moments of prayer.
Pope Francis will open the event with an introduction and will close it on Sunday with an address after Sunday's Mass at which Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Australia, will deliver the homily. The other liturgical moment will be on Saturday afternoon, with a penitential liturgy.
Both Mgr Scicluna and Card Cupich reiterated the need for transparency. For the archbishop of Malta, who is a member of the Organising Committee, "denial is a primitive mechanism”. In his view, “we must move away from the code of silence and end the complicity because silence is not acceptable".
He made it clear that the meeting is part of a journey undertaken some time ago, and is meant to create the right conditions for a follow-up. The bishops will return to their dioceses to continue the work and draft "procedures", conscious of their own responsibilities.
When it comes to child protection, "we must not give up", he added. Appropriate solutions must be found to solve the problem so that "the Church can be a safe place for everyone, especially children".
Mgr Charles J. Scicluna also spoke about the expectations stemming from this meeting, noting that we can start from "reasonable expectations" given that not all the issue can be settled in three days. Eventually, it will depend on how decisions are implemented on the ground.
Answering questions from reporters, Cardinal Cupich, who is also a member of the Organising Committee, spoke of a "new dawn with respect to transparency".
He made it clear that the bishops in attendance, mostly presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, must clearly understand what their responsibilities are, and that safety programmes can prevent a repeat of what happened in the past.
The cardinal went on to say that many of those taking part in the meeting at the Vatican met with victims, as by Pope Francis himself had requested, and that each one "carries the wounds in the heart" of those who were abused by Church members.
The topics the Archbishop of Chicago touched included homosexuality which, he specified, is not "a cause of abuse". The prelate also talked about the appropriate screening methods to be put in place for those who want to enter the seminary, so that those "at risk" of committing child abuse can be excluded.
With respect to the possible release of data on victims of abuse and the actions taken by Church members to deal with the problem, Mgr Charles J. Scicluna said that this will probably be done, but that "it is not enough to publish figures” because “it takes a thorough study to provide a context".
Fr Hans Zollner, head of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, who is also a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the contact person for the Organising Committee, presented the questionnaire proposed to participants as well as the meeting’s official website, which will be updated on a regular basis and will serve as a "tool to develop future initiatives".