Safeguarding

Background on the Vatican meeting focusing on the Protection of Minors

20/02/2019 3:46 pm

Cardinal Nichols with Cardinals and the Pope in Rome

To understand more about the Vatican meeting focusing on the protection of minors, here are the 'frequently asked questions' from the official website for the meeting.  

1) Why Pope Francis proposed the meeting

The Pope explained his intention very well on the return flight from Panama. He wants to help the bishops clearly understand what they must do. It was in this sense that he spoke of a “catechesis”. This “catechesis” will begin through the presidents of the episcopal conferences.

Firstly, he wants them to become aware of the tragedy, of the suffering of the victims. Out of this will arise a strong sense of responsibility on the part of individual bishops, on the part of the bishops as a whole, and on the part of the wider community, that is, the Church.

Secondly, he wants them to know what they need to do: what the procedures are, what tasks need to be accomplished at various levels (diocesan bishop, archdiocesan bishop, episcopal conference, Vatican dicasteries). This will lead to mutual accountability of the responsibilities and tasks that each has in relation to other bishops in the Church, and in
society.

This presupposes “transparency” regarding tasks, procedures, and the way in which they are accomplished.

In this way, the Church’s credibility and people’s ability to trust the Church might be recuperated.

Who is participating in the meeting?

The Pope will be present throughout.

The Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences: 114 in total.

Here's the breakdown:

36 from Africa
24 from North and South America
18 from Asia
32 from Europe
4 from Oceania
14 leaders of the Oriental Catholic Churches
15 Ordinaries who do not belong to an Episcopal Conference
12 Superiors General of men religious
10 Superiors General of women religious
10 Prefects of Vatican dicasteries
4 Members of the Roman Curia
5 Members of the Council of Cardinals
5 Organizers, Moderator and Speakers

Total: 190

Click for a full list of participants.

How was the meeting prepared?

The announcement of the meeting happened during a meeting of the Council of Cardinals last 12 September. At the end of November, the Pope appointed an Organising Committee consisting of four people: Cardinal Blase Cupich, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Father Hans Zollner SJ, in collaboration with Gabriella Gambino and Linda Ghisoni, from the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

In December, the Organising Committee sent a letter to the participants. Accompanying the letter were a questionnaire with a deadline for the end of January and an invitation that each participant meet with a few victims/survivors of sexual abuse on the part of members of the clergy.

The number of responses received from the questionnaire is very high (almost 90%) and is a rich source of information. Since most of the questions were open-ended, it will take time to evaluate the responses. The information will be helpful in understanding specific approaches to the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy in different cultures. This will be the subject of ongoing study after the meeting.

How will the meeting proceed?

The fundamental elements of the meeting are: prayer and listening; presentations and questions; group work; conclusions by the Pope.

Prayer
There will be moments of prayer at the beginning and at the end of each working day of the meeting. There will be a Penitential Liturgy on Saturday afternoon, and a concelebrated Sunday liturgy.

Presentations
There will be nine presentations: 3 per day. Two will be in the morning and one in the afternoon. All will be followed by a question and answer period.

Group work
There will be two times for group work per day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Pope Francis
The Pope will speak at the beginning. Then, should he wish, he will do so at the conclusion of the day. He will pronounce a concluding discourse on Sunday morning.

Click for the full program.

What are the themes of the meeting?

Each of the three days has a theme:

1) Responsibility
2) Accountability
3) Transparency

Each of these themes will be articulated in three presentations. Each presentation will focus on the theme as it relates to: the person of the bishop and his responsibilities; the relationship of a bishop with other bishops; the relationship of the bishops with the People of God and society.

The presenters were chosen so that a variety of continents, cultures and situations in the Church could be represented.

Click for a list of the presentations and the presenters.

There will be a brief time for questions and answers at the end of each presentation. Then the participants will meet in their language groups to discuss the presentation(s). Each group will formulate a brief summary of their discussion to be shared with the assembly in the evening.

How will victims/survivors be heard at the meeting?

Listening to those who have suffered from clerical sexual abuse as minors and understanding that suffering is the necessary point of departure for any serious commitment to combat sexual abuse. Their testimony, therefore, is also included in this meeting. However, such listening requires adequate time, which is very limited during the meeting.

Having said this, the primary listening to the victims/survivors is that requested of the participants during the preparation for this Meeting. They were asked to do this so that they might become aware of the gravity of the problem that exists in their own territories.

During the actual Meeting, there are two moments which include victim/survivor testimonies:

1) A video containing testimonies from victims/survivors at the beginning of the meeting
2) During each of the evening prayer times, one victim/survivor will provide a testimony

In addition, the Meeting intends to promote an awareness that an ongoing need to listen to victims is necessary.

Will a final document or declaration be issued?

A final document is not foreseen. The conclusion, within the context of the meeting, will be the Holy Father’s discourse after the closing liturgy on Sunday morning.