Pope urges every diocese in the world to listen to the victims of abuse
During his meeting in the Vatican with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the pope called for more centres to listen to victims of abuse. He also stressed the autonomy of this body in the new structure of the Roman Curia. Francis also called for annual reports on the actions undertaken by the Church and on what still needs to be done.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke today in the Vatican to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, whose task is to prevent and deal which child abuse, including within the Church. The agency is chaired by Card Sean O' Malley, archbishop of Boston.
In his address, the pontiff said that all Bishops’ Conferences must “establish commissions” and empower them with “the means needed to implement processes of care for persons who have been abused, with all the methods that you have, and for punishing abusers. And you must oversee this.”
This must be done “so that the Church may not only be a safe place for minors and a place of healing, but may prove completely trustworthy in promoting their rights worldwide. Sadly, situations continue to exist where the dignity of children is threatened, and this must be a source of concern for all the faithful and for all people of good will.”
For the Holy Father, “Abuse in any form is unacceptable. The sexual abuse of children is particularly grave, as an offence against a life that is just beginning to flower. Instead of flourishing, one who is abused is deeply injured, at times permanently.”
What is more, “Those who were abused sometimes feel, as it were, trapped between life and death. These are realities that, painful as they are, we cannot take away.”
For this reason, it is important to listen to the victims in “suitable centres where individuals who have experienced abuse, and their family members, can find acceptance and an attentive hearing, and be accompanied in a process of healing and justice”.
Francis went to say that “The testimony of the survivors represents an open wound on the body of Christ, which is the Church.” Yet, it is essential to “make these wounds known, to seek out those who suffer from them, and to recognize in those persons the witness of our suffering Saviour.”
“This is the road that all of us must take: bishops, religious superiors, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, catechists and lay faithful. Each member of the Church, in accord with his or her proper state, is called to assume responsibility for preventing cases of abuse and to work for justice and for healing.”
The pope explained the decision taken in the context of the reform of the Roman Curia moves the commission to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for sexual abuse by members of the clergy. This, he added, will not undermine “freedom of thought and action” within the commission.
The reform places the latter “in the Curia’s organization chart within that Dicastery, but independent, with a President appointed by the Pope. Independent. It is your responsibility to expand the scope of this mission in such a way that the protection and care of those who have experienced abuse may become normative in every sector of the Church’s life.”
The pontiff also underlined the work done so far, noting that it is “starting to bear good fruit. Cases of the abuse of minors by members of the clergy have decreased for several years now in those parts of the world where data and reliable resources are available.”
Nevertheless, he asked the commission to prepare a reliable annual report on the Church's initiatives for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, which would provide a “reliable account on what is presently being done and what needs to change, so that the competent authorities can act.”
Such a “report will be a factor of transparency and accountability and – I hope – will provide a clear audit of our progress in this effort. Without that progress, the faithful will continue to lose trust in their pastors, and preaching and witnessing to the Gospel will become increasingly difficult.”