From 21 to 24 February, the presidents of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences around the world responded to Pope Francis’ call to come to Rome to the Vatican to reflect together on how best to respond seriously to this unprecedented crisis facing the Catholic Church today. The sufferings of so many men and women, children and young people call for a determination on the part of the whole Church. During these three days, several speakers followed one another to address different topics based on the three areas of reflection proposed by the organizing committee: Responsibility, Accountability, Transparency.
All the conferences can be found on the VaticanNews YouTube channel. This summit was also punctuated by several testimonies of victims previously recorded in audio or video. These testimonies allowed those among the speakers who had never heard from victims to discover the extent of the suffering they had endured. Participants also worked in language groups.
What should we remember from this summit?
It is possible to read many analyses in different languages in the online press, indeed 450 journalists were accredited, mainly from the English-speaking world. But for us, here is what we can learn that is important.
This meeting is just one step in this immense project which is to respond to the suffering of the victims with compassion and mercy. It is also a step in the process of conversion of hearts necessary for real preventive work to make the Catholic Church a safe home for children and the most vulnerable. In his final speech, Pope Francis set 7 priority axes of work for the whole People of God and more especially for the bishops of the whole world, here they are summarized with his words (Excerpts from the final speech):
- “Protection of children: the primary objective of any measure is to protect children and prevent them from being victims of psychological and physical abuse. It is therefore necessary to change attitudes to combat the defensive and reactive attitude aimed at safeguarding the Institution, in favour of a sincere and determined search for the good of the community, giving priority to the victims of abuse in every sense of the word.”
- “An irreproachable seriousness: I would like to repeat here that the Church will not spare itself to do all that is necessary to bring to justice anyone who has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to stifle or underestimate any case.”
- “True purification: despite the measures taken and the progress made in preventing abuse, it is necessary to impose a perpetual and renewed commitment to the holiness of pastors whose configuration in Christ the Good Shepherd is a right of God’s people.”
- “Formation: in other words, the requirements of the selection and formation of candidates for the priesthood with criteria not only negative, aimed mainly at excluding problematic personalities, but also positive by offering a balanced formation path for suitable candidates, oriented towards holiness including the virtue of chastity.”
- “To strengthen and verify the guidelines of the Episcopal Conferences: that is, to reaffirm the requirement of unity of the Bishops in the application of measures that have the value of norms and not only of guidelines. No abuse should ever be covered…”
- “Accompanying victims of abuse: The harm they have experienced leaves indelible wounds in them, which are also manifested in resentment and tendencies towards self-destruction. The Church therefore has a duty to offer them all the necessary support by calling on experts in this field.”
- “The digital world: the protection of minors must take into account the new forms of sexual abuse and all forms of abuse that threaten them in the environments in which they live and through the new instruments they use.”
These are seven priorities that Pope Francis has set for the bishops and major superiors of consecrated congregations and institutes of consecrated life, but also more broadly for the whole People of God.
To complete this roadmap, other measures will come: produce a Motu proprio on this question; offer a practical guide for bishops and major superiors to help them in their mission; “task forces / teams of experts” may also be created to help local churches that have more difficulty finding material and human resources to fight against this evil that spares no particular church or human community.
Let us make this roadmap our own.
Useful links :
Chaine YouTube de VaticanNews pour voir ou revoir les conférences :
En français – https://www.youtube.com/user/vaticanfr
In English – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxIsefyl9g9A5SGWA4FvGIA
Also exists in other languages
Many interviews and articles on www.vaticannews.va