Bishops participating in the Vatican summit on the clerical sexual abuse crisis and child protection in February should first meet with survivors of abuse, said the committee organising the meeting. Source: NCR Online.
“The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened. For this reason, we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured,” said the organising committee’s letter, released by the Vatican yesterday.
The Pope had announced in September that he was calling the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men and women religious orders to the Vatican February 21-25 to address the crisis.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge will attend the meeting. Archbishop Coleridge told CathNews that the “tragedy of child sexual abuse cannot possibly be understood without listening to and speaking with survivors”.
“Their stories of violation and betrayal by people who were meant to care for them are what drive our response,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said having participants meet first with survivors “is a concrete way of putting victims first and acknowledging the horror of what happened.”
“The meeting on the protection of minors,” he said, “will focus on three main themes: responsibility, accountability and transparency.”
In November, the Vatican announced the membership of the organising committee: Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Fr Hans Zollner SJ, president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Writing to participants, they quoted Pope Francis’ letter to Catholics in August, which said, “If, in the past, the [Church’s] response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.”
Without “a comprehensive and communal response” to the abuse crisis, the committee said, “not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.”