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Fr Hans Zollner SJ (CNS/Justin McLellan)

To prevent abuse across the board, the Church must place people with disabilities at the centre of its safeguarding efforts and ministry, speakers said at an international safeguarding conference in Rome. Source: CNS.

Hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care, the June 18-21 conference brought global experts to Rome to discuss the relationship between safeguarding and disability.

Institute president Fr Hans Zollner SJ said the conference’s theme year was selected to bridge the gap that exists between safeguarding – referring to practices meant to address and prevent emotional, physical and sexual abuse – and caring for people with disabilities.

“The framework is there but very often it is not linked to the needs of the people … who have been abused,” Fr Zollner said.

“And so we are here to learn from those with disabilities what their particular needs are and what the Church can do as one of the key players in the health system worldwide in the implementation and inculturation of these different models that we have.”

Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin opened the conference and Sheila Hollins, a Catholic and parent of five disabled adult children, delivered the opening keynote address. 

Australian Jesuits general council Fr Justin Glyn SJ, who is visually-impaired, said that as society becomes increasingly individualistic and achievement-based, the Church has a key role in upholding a sense of community that is central to the experience of disability.

“The disabled world is the world of interdependence,” he said. “We may need assistance in various ways, but we can provide it also.”

Similarly, Catholics professing the communion of saints “don’t believe that salvation is an individual thing,” he said.

“We are the people who actually are invested in each other in Christ,” Fr Glyn said,” and disability is a classic demonstration of that.”


Safeguarding: Church must place disabled persons at center, experts say (By Justin McLellan, CNS)