02/19/2019, 12.19
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Superiors of male and female religious institutes in support of Pope Francis and the meeting on the protection of minors

In an official declaration, published by the Holy See Press Office, religious orders express "shame", but also "hope" for the upcoming meeting. Building a new "culture of protection" for children and vulnerable adults, based on health care, formation and spirituality. Ensure that candidates for the religious vocation and the priesthood find "safe places where their vocation is nourished".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Superiors of male and female religious institutes around the world have drawn up a Declaration in support of Pope Francis and the meeting on the protection of minors that will take place in the Vatican from 21 to 24 February, for presidents of episcopal conferences.

The text of the Declaration was released today by the Holy See Press Office. It begins by stressing the commitment of religious institutes in favor of children, against the trafficking of minors, in favor of saving child soldiers, in protecting them from abuses of all kinds. But it also expresses "shame" that the meeting at the Vatican will discuss the "abuses [that] have occurred in our Congregations and Orders and in our Church". "Our shame – it adds - is increased by our own lack of realisation of what has been happening. ".

Expressing "hope" in the value of the imminent meeting, the superiors affirm that " The leadership of the Holy Father is key.... We join with him in his mission to humbly acknowledge and confess the wrongs that have been done; to reach out to survivors; to learn from them how to accompany those who have been abused and how they wish us to hear their stories".

They also outline the construction of a new "culture of protection" for the defense of vulnerable children and adults. This construction is based on: a) education and health care; b) formation; spirituality ("To find Jesus in a personal way is something that can heal us all").

For religious men and women, what has hindered the fight against abuse so far is "clericalism" and a " he strong sense of family in our Orders and Congregations – something usually so positive - can make it harder to condemn and expose abuse".

The Declaration hopes for greater collaboration with governmental health institutions, in the criteria for "the selection of candidates who become part of religious life", in initial and ongoing formation, in the involvement of parents and women in the evaluation of cases of abuse.

In a message to survivors of abuse, they say: "We recognize that there has been an inadequate attempt to address this problem and a shameful inability to understand your pain. We offer you our sincerest apologies and our pain. We ask you to believe in our good will and our sincerity. We invite you to work with us to create new structures to ensure that risks are kept to a minimum ".

Referring then to the media attention "about the abuse and exploitation of nuns, seminarians and candidates in the houses of formation", the superiors and the general superiors affirm: "We want to ensure that those who generously apply to be part of religious orders or who they are trained in seminaries to live in safe places where their vocation is nourished and where their desire to love God and others is helped to grow to maturity".

And they conclude: "As the meeting on safeguarding starts, we ask pardon of all for our failures and repeat that we stand with the Holy Father. We commit our efforts to working with him so that the Church can move forward in a coherent, credible and unified way, a way that is genuinely healing, truly renewed, with new eyes to see and new ears to hear".

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