Poland: Commission for the protection of minors organizes major conference in Warsaw
Source: Vatican News
The Church of Central and Eastern Europe has gathered for a conference on the protection of minors, to be held in Warsaw, Poland, from September 19-22. The event takes place under the theme: “Our common mission to save the children of God.”
Representatives of Episcopal Conferences from nearly 20 Central and Eastern European countries participate, as well as professionals working in the field of child and youth protection.
According to the press release from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, local church leaders and delegates will consider their response to the crisis of child sexual abuse, while assessing the impact of the regional context on the issue.
Participants will hear experts share their experience in “prevention, intervention (reporting abuse and implementation of existing procedures – Vos estis lux mundi) and present practices already adopted and used in other parts of the Church “.
One of the main objectives of the Warsaw conference will be to encourage the exchange of experiences and to promote networking between representatives of the Church engaged in the protection of minors.
Those attending will seek to establish better systems for exchanging information and sharing resources “in a dialectic of mutual learning”.
The statement goes on to note that the participants will include bishops, superiors of religious communities and lay people working in the field – from Catholic churches of the Latin and Greek rite, and from nations such as Poland, Albania, Croatia, Slovenia. , Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo.
Cardinal Seán O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission, said in the statement that the Warsaw conference aims to help local Catholic leaders protect the most vulnerable.
“Our Commission is going to Warsaw to be with the Churches of Central and Eastern Europe, to listen to them, learn about their reality and help them chart the course to follow in the protection of children and vulnerable people.
The Cardinal also recognized the courage of those who suffered abuse from the clergy.
“It is because of their courage that others can be spared from experiencing this horror,” he said. “There is no place or group of people safe from being touched by this crime and sin. It has tragically infiltrated the Church in all countries and cultures.”
Cardinal O’Malley called on Church leaders to pursue a “learning journey” that continues throughout life. “Conversion to a safeguarding culture is an urgent priority,” he said.
Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, welcomed the fact that Poland is hosting the Warsaw conference for the whole region. He said: “I hope that this meeting will allow us not only to discuss the challenges we face today, but also to exchange experiences and good practices and that it will mark the beginning of a future. collaboration, which will result in joint actions in our part of Europe. “
The initiative is the result of the joint efforts of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the Polish Bishops’ Conference and the St. Joseph Foundation.
In his opening address on Sunday, Cardinal Seán O’Malley spoke of the importance of pastoral conversion “as a missionary journey for the whole Church”, an emphasis the Pope himself often makes.
“Conversion at the personal and institutional level is at the heart of the renewal process and is essential for what Pope Francis calls a ‘missionary transformation’ of the Church,” said the cardinal.
He said the invitation to conversion is a key theme of the conference that hopes to renew the Church in the face of sexual abuse in Central and Eastern Europe.
“We must work for a change that will be incorporated into all aspects of the life of the Church,” said the cardinal, “combating sexual abuse wherever it has occurred, regardless of the status or function of the Church. person who committed the crime “.
Cardinal O’Malley then proposed three steps to help Church leaders in their ministry to protect and care for minors and the vulnerable.
The first: “listening” – requires a heart willing to recognize the “truth of what happened …” When someone who has been mistreated by the clergy, religious or other people of the world “Church tells her story, we must receive it and their testimony with the utmost respect,” he said.
The cardinal also called for the creation and improvement of “clear channels of communication and meeting” where victims of abuse can contact the Church if they wish.
He praised the many dioceses that have set up dedicated phone lines or email accounts for survivors or their family members to contact. However, added the cardinal, “if a diocese does not receive many responses after establishing these means of contact, it does not mean that the reality of sexual abuse by clergy or religious is not present”.
Rather, dioceses should seek to adapt their channels of communication to the local culture. “It is important that we all maintain the focus on providing accessible, welcoming and non-judgmental opportunities for survivors and their loved ones to contact and engage in dialogue with the local Church.”
The next step in the renewal process: “recognize the survivors” – means that the Church must “honestly and clearly recognize those who have been abused”.
Cardinal O’Malley said defensiveness is not a correct answer and should be replaced with “a deep listening to the survivor, with a willingness to better understand what he went through”.
One of the obstacles to this listening process, added the Cardinal, is a “mistaken concern for the reputation of the institutional Church”.
“While pastors are responsible for protecting the Church and, in many cases, have suffered or given their lives in defense of the faith,” said Cardinal O’Malley, “a skeptical and at times even humiliating response to witnessing abuse can cause serious damage to those whom the Church is called to regard as a priority for pastoral care and caring, namely those broken and hurt by abusive ministers within the Church itself. “
Vulnerability to faults committed by ministers of the Church, added the Cardinal, is a common feeling, although it can also become an “experience of God’s action in our world that brings healing.”
The third and final step: “seek forgiveness” – requires Church leaders to imitate Jesus who was moved when he saw the needs of the people.
Cardinal O’Malley said that many survivors have been treated unfairly and have been “cast out in their suffering by the Church itself”, adding that they can instead play a leading role in the edification. from the church.
“By embracing the role of protagonists in our communities, survivors can provide important insight into gospel truth that paves the way for a new evangelization, even of the Church itself,” he said.
While the journey of each survivor of abuse is deeply personal and unique, ministers of the Church should ask “forgiveness from all those affected by sexual abuse.”
Finally, the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors called on the Church of Central and Eastern Europe to continue on the path of pastoral conversion, so that the Church “regains its credibility and promotes healing”.
The journey of learning, Cardinal O’Malley concluded, will be “continuous throughout our lives.”
“With the help of dedicated and knowledgeable people like those gathered here and many others in the region who are engaged in the process of healing and reconciliation,” said the cardinal, “I have no doubts that we are on the right track. way and that we can make meaningful progress, always prioritizing the concerns and needs of survivors as we move forward. “
Key words: Abuse, Bishop Stanisław Gądecki, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
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