The Vatican

Cardinal Parolin on abuse: "It is an injustice that affects everyone".

The Pontifical Gregorian University organized the IV International Conference on Safeguarding, with the aim of taking further steps in the prevention of abuse. This year, the theme focused on "Safeguarding and disability".

Giovanni Tridente-June 19, 2024-Reading time: 2 minutes

Cardinal Parolin and the Director of the Institute of Anthropology, Hans Zollner (Credit IADC)

"Abuses represent "an injustice that affects everyone, disabled or not." Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, said this at the opening of the IV International Conference on Safeguarding organized in the Pontifical Gregorian University by its Institute of Anthropology, founded in 2012 as the initial Center for the Protection of Minors. In 2021, the agency, of which Jesuit Hans Zollnerexpanded its mission to include vulnerable people of all ages.

It is no coincidence that this year's conference is dedicated to the theme "Safeguarding and disability", a central concern also in the magisterium of Pope Francis and the Church in general. According to the World Health Organization, 16 % of the world's population lives with a significant disability, as a result of the interaction between health, environmental and personal conditions, notes a statement from the organizers.

"In recent years, the international community has made significant progress in recognizing the rights of persons with disabilities, but unfortunately this has not yet happened at the global level," Parolin explained. If this were to happen, a "more just and caring society could flourish, in which belonging is not a slogan to be used in politically correct speeches, but a practice."

"We have the opportunity," the Cardinal Secretary of State added in his address, "to overcome the various barriers by coming together and discussing ways" to combat any kind of abuse in any circumstance.

The conference

The conference, which runs through June 21, will include several dynamic sessions. These will include the participation of the Deaf Catholic Youth Initiative for the Americas (DCYIA), a non-profit organization that supports the pastoral, cultural and linguistic needs of deaf youth in the Americas. Three American Sign Language interpreters will translate the presentations for the audience and assist the deaf participants. Their talk, entitled "Deaf and Abused...the Forgotten Community," will address the challenges often experienced by these victims.

Three other sessions will focus on the cultural approach to disability in different geographical and social contexts, the acceptance and participation of people with disabilities in the life of the Church, and the difficulties faced by people with disabilities in recognizing and reporting possible abuses.

The attention of Pope Francis

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has devoted special attention to the issue of abuse. Over the past ten years, he has updated both the canonical norms and the laws of Vatican City State regulating sexual abuse by clerics, extending them to lay people as well. It has also put in place measures to investigate and punish not only those who commit abuse, but also those who cover it up with malice or indifference.

In line with the Pontiff's concerns, the Conference also wants to provide a platform to learn more about this issue, to network and share best practices in the field of care, prevention and accompaniment of children and adults in situations of violence or abuse.

Prerogatives that are assumed by the Institute of Anthropology itself, aimed at promoting dignity and care through interdisciplinary training, research and education, approaches inspired by Christian principles and sensitive to cultural diversity.

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