Minors: "May the activities and places of the Church always be fully secure".

From February 21 to 24, an important meeting of all the presidents of the bishops' conferences, the superiors of religious congregations and various members of the Roman Curia was held at the Vatican to reflect on the drama of child abuse in the Church.

Giovanni Tridente-March 5, 2019-Reading time: 6 minutes

"We want all Church activities and places to always be fully safe for minors; that all possible measures be taken to ensure that such crimes are not repeated; that the Church once again be absolutely credible and reliable in its mission of service and education for the little ones according to the teaching of Jesus".

With these words, pronounced at the end of the Angelus from the window of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis symbolically closed the significant meeting on the "guardianship of minors".The meeting, which was held at the Vatican from February 21 to 24, was attended by some 200 members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, including presidents of bishops' conferences from around the world, representatives of the superiors of religious congregations and various collaborators of the Roman Curia.

It was a "symbolic" closure, because in substance it is the beginning of a new approach to the phenomenon of abuse of minors by members of the Church, which undoubtedly follows a path begun many years ago, already under the pontificate of St. John Paul II, and pursued with determination by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, but which is now entering a more dynamic and proactive phase.

For four days, what we could call the "apex" of the Church has carried out a painful penitential journey, and has had to look in the face that "too much" evil that for too long has been allowed to wound even the deepest viscera of the ecclesial community, ruining the existence of those whom Jesus Christ always considered the most privileged treasure to safeguard: the children.

Certainly, the problems will not magically disappear, because evil entered the world with the "first man" and because God wants his children to be always free. But having taken this great step of humiliation, which has not avoided the mention of the worst responsibilities of those who should have supervised that certain crimes did not occur, allows us to hope that the right direction has finally been taken.


It was significant that the many cardinals and bishops representing the Church throughout the world were able to hear, from the living voice of those wounded for life, the dramatic testimonies of the abuses they have suffered at the hands of those who should have cared for them.

And it is a good thing that finally the obsessive safeguarding of the good name of the Church, of the diocese, of the bishop or of the parish community is no longer at the center of the problem, but the victims, the victims, who above all must be guaranteed that they will be believed (taking seriously what they have to say) and fully supported. There is no point in hiding, and past experience has shown that this is the cause of other evils, other abuses, other and infinite physical and moral dramas.

Pope Francis was present for the entire duration of the meeting, in which prayer was the primary focus, a prayer that was certainly penitential but also one of invocation of the Holy Spirit, so that in this small ecclesial cenacle the light of healing for all and the necessary action of reparation and safeguarding could enter.

Much has been said, much has been heard, much has been prayed, much has been rectified, much has been debated. Now each one, when he returns to his community in the various corners of the planet, will have to transmit to those who remained there this new mentality of taking charge of the problem in an active and proactive way, so that, as Pope Francis has repeated, the problem can be solved, "all Church activities and places are always fully safe for minors"..


So much material was handled at the meeting that the organizing committee decided to meet in the following days to carry out a necessary and timely follow-up, which could be along the lines of the "concreteness" that the Holy Father had asked for in his opening speech on abuse.

Because it is true that diagnoses are necessary to honestly frame the phenomena, but once the problems and causes are known, it is necessary to move on to therapies and heal the broken bodies sadly marked by evil. In addition to other reasons, at least because "the saint Town God is looking at us and expects from us not simple and obvious condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be adopted".said the Pope.

Among the first concrete initiatives to be taken, he told reporters at the last press conference, he said briefing organized by the Stampa Room The moderator of the meeting, Federico Lombardi, will be a member of the Motu own of the Pope "to strengthen the prevention of and the fight against abuse in the Roman Curia and in Vatican City State"The new law will be accompanied by a new State law and the appropriate guidelines.

For its part, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will publish a vademecum which will help the bishops of the world to understand clearly what their duties and competencies are.
At the request of the Holy Father, the following will also be created task forces of competent persons to assist episcopal conferences and dioceses that encounter difficulties in dealing with these problems, or to take appropriate initiatives.

The program of the event included three intense days of conferences - dedicated to three specific topics: responsibility, accountability e transparency-The sessions were always introduced by the opening prayer and were punctuated by spaces for questions and group work, the conclusions of which were presented at the end of each day.

As we were saying, the testimonies of victims of abuse from various nations and continents were striking and at the same time necessary, and were offered each day, also as a reason to accompany the group prayer, two speakers in the morning and one in the afternoon, always introduced by the opening prayer and punctuated by spaces for questions and group work, whose conclusions were presented at the end of each day.

Those in charge of relations have been cardinals and bishops, but also three women, a nun and two laywomen, from different backgrounds to show that this is a global phenomenon.


The washing of the "penitential liturgy", celebrated at the end of the third day, also had a strong emotional impact, also because of the clarity with which all the bishops gathered in the Sala Regia before the image of the bleeding Crucified One asked for forgiveness, confessing the violence they had committed. "respect for minors and young people"the inability to protect "those who were most in need of our attention."the coverage given to the culprits and the reduction of the victims to silence, omitting the "help when it was needed".

In the final speech of the meeting, delivered at the end of the Holy Mass with all the participants also in the Sala Regia, in order to maintain the necessary climate of recollection and prayer, Pope Francis stressed that although it is a widespread phenomenon worldwide - as shown by a series of statistics from qualified organizations - in the case of the Church it acquires greater gravity and scandal. "because it contrasts with their moral authority and ethical credibility.".

Mystery of evil

It is difficult to find a plausible explanation as to why this occurs, but an answer can certainly be reached by recognizing that "humbly and courageously", "that we are before the mystery of evil, which rages against the weakest because they are the image of Jesus.". "Satan"The Holy Father added outside the text. Without recognizing this dimension "we will be far from the truth and no real solutions"..

Therefore, in addition to practical measures, it is especially important to take the following measures "measures The spiritual exercises that the Lord himself teaches us: humiliation, acts of contrition, prayer, penance. This is the only way for defeat the spirit of evil. Thus Jesus overcame him"..

Afterwards, the objective will be to "listen, to protect and care for abused, exploited and neglected minors, wherever they may be".and the Church will do so - Pope Francis suggested - in four specific dimensions, ranging from the primary objective of the guardianship of children, with a change of mentality for the protection of children, to a change of mentality for the protection of children's rights. "to combat the defensive-reactionary attitude of safeguarding the Institution, for the benefit of a sincere and decisive search for the good of the community."and cultivate "seriousness flawless." The first step is to demand a correct and balanced selection and formation of candidates to the priesthood, to further strengthen the guidelines of each of the Episcopal Conferences, and to accompany those who have suffered abuse, without neglecting the immense phenomenon of the "digital world", which often facilitates access to this evil, and "sex tourism", a worldwide scourge to be combated and repressed.

Conversion and humility

Nevertheless, the Pope wanted to thank so many priests and religious who spend their lives to proclaim the Gospel, and educate and protect the little ones and the defenseless, giving their lives in the following of Jesus; and concluded by affirming that the best and most effective result in this renewed journey in the service of good and truth can only come from a "personal and collective conversion" and from "the humility to learn, listen, assist and protect the most vulnerable".

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