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Thursday, January 16, 2014


Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) – Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, C.S., Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, spoke this morning before the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). He presented the Holy See's periodic report on this issue.

The protection of children remains a major concern for contemporary society and for the Holy See,” the prelate said. “... Abusers are found among members of the world’s most respected professions, most regrettably, including members of the clergy and other church personnel. …”

Confronted with this reality, the Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse and to collaborate with respective State authorities to fight against this crime. The Holy See is also committed to listen carefully to victims of abuse and to address the impact such situations have on survivors of abuse and on their families. The vast majority of church personnel and institutions on the local level have provided, and continue to provide, a wide variety of services to children by educating them, and by supporting their families, and by responding to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Egregious crimes of abuse committed against children have rightly been adjudicated and punished by the competent civil authorities in the respective countries.”

Therefore, the response of the Holy See to the sad phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors has been articulated in different ambits. On the level of the Holy See, as the Sovereign of Vatican City State, the response to sexual abuse has been in accord with its direct responsibility over the territory of Vatican City State. In this regard, special legislation has been enacted to implement international legal obligations, and covers the State, and its tiny population.”

On the international level, the Holy See has taken concrete action by the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. In 2000, the Holy See acceded to the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography, as well as the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The Holy See then promotes and encourages these international instruments.”

At the same time, the Holy See as the central organ of the Catholic Church has formulated guidelines to facilitate the work of the local Churches to develop effective measures within their jurisdiction and in conformity with canonical legislation.”

Local Churches, taking into account the domestic law in their respective countries, have developed guidelines and monitored their implementation with the aim of preventing any additional abuse and dealing promptly with it, in accordance with national law whenever it occurs. … The result of the combined action taken by local Churches and by the Holy See presents a framework that, when properly applied, will help eliminate the occurrence of child sexual abuse by clergy and other church personnel.”

The Permanent Observer explained that “the Holy See’s 'Periodic Report on the CRC' is divided into four Parts: Part I deals with general considerations, including the nature of the Holy See as a subject of international law. Part II responds to the concluding observations of the Committee to the Holy See’s Initial Report, and, in particular, questions concerning reservations; the Committee’s four principles and the duties and rights of parents, the education of girls, education about health, and education on the CRC. The Holy See also discusses the principles it promotes concerning the rights and duties of the child within the context of the family. Part III presents the international contributions of the Holy See in advancing and promoting basic principles recognized in the CRC on a full range of issues pertaining to children (e.g., the family, adoption, children with disabilities; health and welfare; leisure and culture; and special measures to protect children, including questions pertaining to sexual abuse, drug addiction, children living on the streets and minority groups). Finally, Part IV addresses the implementation of the Convention in Vatican City State.”

In the end, there is no excuse,” the prelate repeated, “for any form of violence or exploitation of children. Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programs, or in religious organizations and structures. This is the long-standing policy of the Holy See. … For this reason, the Holy See, and local Church structures in all parts of the world, are committed to holding inviolable the dignity and entire person of every childbody, mind, and spirit.”

Pope Benedict XVI,” the prelate concluded, “speaking to the Bishops of Ireland in 2006 had these important words to say: 'In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric.' … Likewise, Pope Francis clearly … undertook new action and has announced the creation of a Commission for the Protection of Minors, with the aim of proposing new initiatives for the development of safe environment programs for children and improving efforts for the pastoral care for victims of abuse around the world.”

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