Vatican City, 7 February 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Boston, U.S.A. and president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors gave an update this morning in the Holy See Press Office on the work of this entity following the letter sent by Pope Francis on 2 February to the presidents of the episcopal conferences and superiors of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life throughout the world. The cardinal was accompanied by two members of the Commission, Sister Kayula Gertrude Lesa RSC of Zambia, who works with refugees and the victims of human trafficking, and Peter Saunders, founder of the British organisation NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood).
Cardinal O'Malley began by noting that the date on which the Pope sent the letter – the Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple “is symbolic as we work to make the Temple a safe place to bring children”, and added that he is writing to the various episcopal conferences to request that each one name a contact person who can help establish a line of communication with the conferences as well as with Religious Superiors. “One of the tasks of the Commission, working with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will be to reach out to help suggest best practices, especially to conferences that are finding it difficult to develop policies. The Commission is also tasked to promote education and child safety programs and to present methods for measuring compliance”.
On Friday, 6 February the first meeting of the full Commission was held, attended by all seventeen members, with new representation from Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania. “I am truly impressed by the wealth of experience and commitment that all the members bring to the Commission”, commented the archbishop of Boston.
“We are currently working to develop seminars to educate Church leadership in the area of child protection”, he continued. “We hope to offer these programs for members of the Roman Curia and for newly appointed bishops who come to Rome from throughout the world, for orientation programs sponsored by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. The Commission is also preparing materials for a Day of Prayer for all those who have been harmed by sexual abuse. Such an activity underscores our responsibility to work for spiritual healing and also helps raise consciousness among the Catholic community about the scourge of child abuse”.
“We have also begun to reach out to Catholic funding organisations, to ask them to include some requirements concerning child protection in their guidelines for eligibility for funding. Realising that many of the countries that need to do the most work to advance child protection are also often terribly lacking in resources, we are asking the funding organisations to award grants in these counties for establishing child protection programs and providing training for Church personnel”, added Cardinal O'Malley.
The Commission is currently in the process of establishing a series of working groups to call on the expertise of individuals who are not members but can provide valuable assistance. “We have one working group which has been charged with the task of outreach to survivors who might contribute to our efforts by their participation, especially concerning issues of prevention and sound guidelines”, he concluded.