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Tuesday, March 9, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the text of note issued today by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. concerning cases of the sexual abuse of minors in ecclesiastical institutions:

  "For some months now the very serious question of the sexual abuse of minors in institutions run by ecclesiastical bodies and by people with positions of responsibility within the Church, priests in particular, has been investing the Church and society in Ireland. The Holy Father recently demonstrated his own concern, particularly through two meetings: firstly with high-ranking members of the episcopate, then with all the ordinaries. He is also preparing the publication of a letter on the subject for the Irish Church.

  "But over recent weeks the debate on the sexual abuse of minors has also involved the Church in certain central European countries (Germany, Austria and Holland). And it is on this development that we wish to make some simple remarks.

  "The main ecclesiastical institutions concerned - the German Jesuit Province (the first to be involved, through the case of the Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin), the German Episcopal Conference, the Austrian Episcopal Conference and the Netherlands Episcopal Conference - have faced the emergence of problem with timely and decisive action. They have demonstrated their desire for transparency and, in a certain sense, accelerated the emergence of the problem by inviting victims to speak out, even when the cases involved date from many years ago. By doing so they have approached the matter 'on the right foot', because the correct starting point is recognition of what happened and concern for the victims and the consequences of the acts committed against them. Moreover, they have re-examined the extant 'Directives' and have planned new operative guidelines which also aim to identify a prevention strategy, so that everything possible may be done to ensure that similar cases are not repeated in the future.

  "These events mobilise the Church to find appropriate responses and should be placed in a more wide-ranging context that concerns the protection of children and young people from sexual abuse in society as a whole. Certainly, the errors committed in ecclesiastical institutions and by Church figures are particularly reprehensible because of the Church's educational and moral responsibility, but all objective and well-informed people know that the question is much broader, and concentrating accusations against the Church alone gives a false perspective. By way of example, recent data supplied by the competent authorities in Austria shows that, over the same period of time, the number of proven cases in Church institutions was 17, while there were 510 other cases in other areas. It would be as well to concern ourselves also with them.

  "In Germany initiatives are now rightly being suggested, promoted by the Ministry for the Family, to call a 'round table' of the various educational and social organisations in order to consider the question from an appropriate and comprehensive viewpoint. The Church is naturally ready to participate and become involved and, perhaps, her own painful experience may also be a useful contribution for others. Chancellor Angela Merkel had justly recognised the seriousness and constructive approach shown by the German Church.

  "In order to complete these remarks, it is as well to recall once again that the Church exists as part of civil society and shoulders her own responsibilities in society, but she also has her own specific code, the 'canonical code', which reflects her spiritual and sacramental nature and in which, therefore, judicial and penal procedures are different (for example, they contain no provision for pecuniary sanctions or for the deprivation of freedom, but for impediment in the exercise of the ministry and privation of rights in the ecclesiastical field, etc.). In the ambit of canon law, the crime of the sexual abuse of minors has always been considered as one of the most serious of all, and canonical norms have constantly reaffirmed this, in particular the 2001 Letter 'De delictis gravioribus', sometimes improperly cited as the cause of a 'culture of silence'. Those who know and understand its contents, are aware that it was a decisive signal to remind the episcopate of the seriousness of the problem, as well as a real incentive to draw up operational guidelines to face it.

  "In conclusion, although the seriousness of the difficulties the Church is going through cannot be denied, we must not fail to do everything possible in order to ensure that, in the end, they bring positive results, of better protection for infancy and youth in the Church and in society, and the purification of the Church herself".
OP/SEXUAL ABUSE/LOMBARDI                    VIS 20100309 (780)


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. yesterday expressed "concern and horror" at the violent conflicts which have taken place in Nigeria in recent days, and which have led to the deaths of five hundred Christians of the Berom ethnic group in villages in the centre-north of the country, at the hands of Muslims of the Fulani ethnic group.

  Fr. Lombardi also explained that the events are to be seen "not as a religious, but a social confrontation".

  For his part, Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, speaking to Vatican Radio, affirmed that "this is a classic conflict between herdsmen and farmers, only the Fulani are all Muslims and the Berom all Christians. The international media are quickly led to report that it is Christians and Muslims who are killing one another; but this is not true, because the killings are not caused by religion but by social, economic, tribal and cultural issues. The victims are poor people who know nothing about, and have nothing to do with, any of this and are completely innocent. For our part in the Church, we continue to work to promote good relations between Christians and Muslims, seeking to reach agreement in an attempt to overcome violence and to work together to face the real political and ethnic problems".

  "We pray for peace, for good government and for truth. And we pray also that people may realise that the only way to survive in this country is to recognise one another as brothers and citizens of the same nation", the archbishop concluded.
.../NIGERIA/LOMBARDI:OLORUNFEMI                    VIS 20100309 (280)


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, yesterday addressed the fifty-fourth session of the Economic and Social Council's Commission on the Status of Women, which was meeting to discuss "Item 3: Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled 'Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century'".

  Addressing the commission in English, Archbishop Migliore said: "From the successive interventions in these days, ... it seems that the assessment is not entirely positive: It includes some light, but also many and disturbing shadows.

  "The advancements achieved regarding the status of women in the world in the last fifteen years include, among others, improvements in the education of girls, the promotion of women as key to eradicating poverty and fostering development, growth of participation in social life, political reforms aimed at removing forms of discrimination against women and specific laws against domestic violence", he added.

  "In particular, among the many parallel events, some have stressed the indispensable role played by civil society in all its components, in highlighting the dignity of women, their rights and responsibilities. This having been said, women continue to suffer in many parts of the world".

  The permanent observer highlighted the importance of not overlooking "violence in the form of female feticide, infanticide, and abandonment", as well as "discrimination in health and nutrition". He noted, moreover, how "girls and women 15 years of age and over account for two-thirds of the world's illiterate population".

  The archbishop went on: "It is a sad fact that three quarters of those infected by HIV/AIDS are girls and women between the ages of 15 and 24", and that, among the victims of human trafficking, "minors account for up to fifty percent and approximately seventy percent are women and girls".

  The reasons for this situation are to be found "in cultural and social dynamics as well as delays and slowness of policy", he explained.

  "Achieving equality between women and men in education, employment, legal protection and social and political rights is considered in the context of gender equality. Yet the evidence shows that the handling of this concept ... is proving increasingly ideologically driven, and actually delays the true advancement of women. Moreover, in recent official documents there are interpretations of gender that dissolve every specificity and complementarity between men and women. These theories will not change the nature of things but certainly are already blurring and hindering any serious and timely advancement on the recognition of the inherent dignity and rights of women".

  Archbishop Migliore stressed the fact that the final documents of international conferences and committees often "link the achievement of personal, social, economic and political rights to a notion of sexual and reproductive health and rights which is violent to unborn human life and is detrimental to the integral needs of women and men within society".

  "A solution respectful of the dignity of women does not allow us to bypass the right to motherhood, but commits us to promoting motherhood by investing in and improving local health systems and providing essential obstetrical services", he said.

  "Fifteen years ago the Beijing Platform for Action proclaimed that women's human rights are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. This is key not only to understanding the inherent dignity of women and girls but also to making this a concrete reality around the world", he concluded.

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