Abuse summit puts Vatican in the spotlight

Fr Hans Zollner SJ (CNS/Paul Haring)

All eyes and ears will be on the Vatican during an unprecedented gathering next week to discuss the protection of minors in the Church. Source: CNS.

When Pope Francis announced the February 21-24 international meeting in September, it sparked an optimistic note that the global problem of abuse finally would be tackled with a concerted, coordinated global effort.

The breadth of the potential impact seemed to be reflected in the list of those convoked to the meeting: the presidents of all the world’s bishops’ conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches, representatives of the leadership groups of men’s and women’s religious orders and the heads of major Vatican offices.

But the Pope tried to dial down what he saw as “inflated expectations” for the meeting, telling reporters last month that “the problem of abuse will continue. It’s a human problem” that exists everywhere.

Many survivors and experts, too, have cautioned that it was unrealistic to assume such a brief meeting could deliver a panacea for abuse and its cover-up.

So, what should people expect from the four-day meeting? The following five points hit the highlights:

1. It will be first and foremost about raising awareness, including that the scandal of abuse is not a “Western” problem, but happens in every country.

2. Organisers hope that by listening to victims and leaders who have learned things the hard way, participants will be inspired to adopt a culture of accountability and transparency.

3. There will be a kind of “parallel assembly” as large numbers of survivors and advocacy groups converge on Rome to call for greater accountability, action and reform.

4. Pope Francis will be present throughout the meeting, which will include plenary sessions, working groups, prayer, a penitential liturgy and a closing Mass.

5. Expect the meeting to be one critical step along a very long journey that began decades ago and must continue.

Further measures will be taken after the meeting, organising committee member Fr Hans Zollner SJ has said. For instance, a task force made up of child protection experts “will probably be instituted in the various continents” to help bishops create, strengthen and implement guidelines.


Great expectations: Vatican abuse summit has key, realistic goals (CNS

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