Vatican City, 3 May 2014 (VIS) – The members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors held their inaugural meeting from 1-3 May at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. As was previously announced, the purpose of the meeting was to make recommendations to the Holy Father regarding the Commission’s functions and to propose additional members from different parts of the world. The members who took part in the meeting are Catherine Bonnet, France; Marie Collins, Ireland; Sheila Baroness Hollins, United Kingdom; Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley O.F.M. Cap., United States; Claudio Papale, Italy; Hanna Suchocka, Poland; Humberto Miguel Yanez, S.J., Argentina; and Hans Zollner, S.J., Germany.
At the end of the meeting, during a briefing at the Holy See Press Office, the following statement was issued on behalf of the Commission:
“As we begin our service together, we wish to express our heartfelt solidarity with all victims/survivors of sexual abuse as children and vulnerable adults and to share that, from the very beginning of our work, we have adopted the principle that the best interests of a child or vulnerable adult are primary when any decision is made.
During our meetings, each of us has been able to share our thoughts, experiences, and our aspirations for this Pontifical Commission. Responding to our Holy Father’s requests, these discussions focused on the Commission’s nature and purpose and on expanding the membership to include people from other geographical areas and other areas of expertise. Our conversations included many proposals for ways in which the Commission might collaborate with experts from different areas related to safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults. We also met with some people from the Roman Curia regarding areas for future cooperation, including representatives from the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Vatican Press Office, and the Vatican Gendarmerie.
As an advisory commission to the Holy Father, the fruit of our work will be communicated to Pope Francis. In time, we will propose initiatives to encourage local responsibility around the world and the mutual sharing of “best practices” for the protection of all minors, including programs for training, education, formation, and responses to abuse. We have also shared with Pope Francis how important certain areas are to us in our future work. We see ensuring accountability in the Church as especially important, including developing means for effective and transparent protocols and processes.
We will propose Statutes to the Holy Father to express more precisely the Commission’s nature, structure, activity, and the goals. It is clear, for example, that the Commission will not deal with individual cases of abuse, but we can make recommendations regarding policies for assuring accountability and best practice. In the Statutes, we plan to make specific proposals regarding the importance of emphasizing ways for raising the awareness of all people regarding the tragic consequences of sexual abuse and of the devastating consequences of not listening, not reporting suspicion of abuse, and failing to support victims/survivors and their families.
As the Catholic people make our parishes, schools, and institutions safe for all children, we join with people of good will in our endeavour to ensure that children and vulnerable adults are protected from abuse. We request the prayers of all who wish to support the work of the Commission”.