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Photo by Zenit / Deborah Lubov

FEATURE: ‘I Will Never Give Up,’ Archbishop Scicluna Says at Vatican’s Presentation of Summit for Protection of Minors

Speakers Stress that to be Effective We Need Compliance With Guidelines, Not Discretion

I will never give up…

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, president of the Maltese Bishops’ Conference, the Pope’s entrusted reformer in combatting and investigating sex abuse, and one of the four organizers of this week’s Summit on the Protection of Minor’s in the Church in the Vatican, Feb. 21-24, said this, noting that even if it takes time, even if mistakes are made, there is no excuse in his mind to ever stop working toward protecting minors and the innocent in the Church.

The comments were made at the Holy See Press Office today, Feb. 18, where a press conference was held to present the meeting, convened by the Pope, which will bring together the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences and other representatives in the church and in religious life.

The speakers, along with Archbishop Scicluna, who also is an adjunct secretary in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this morning included Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, member of the Organizing Committee; Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., president of the Joseph Ratzinger – Benedetto XVI Vatican Foundation, moderator of the meeting; Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors of the Pontifical Gregorian University, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; reference for the Organizing Committee; and Sr Bernadette Reis, F.S.P., assistant to the ad interim director of the Holy See Press Office, along with Alessandro Gisotti, the ad interim director himself.

Fr. Lombardi announced information about the program, participants, and speakers, and it was noted that press and interested observers and faithful should go to the website pbc2019.org, which has been specifically launched for the encounter, providing information, resources and background on the summit itself and the subject matter.

Archbishop Scicluna reminded those present: “This represents a phase of a larger more comprehensive process.”

The daily briefings—to accommodate an incredibly large number of press–will take place in the Augustianum located off of St Peter’s Square. Present each day, along with a guest to be announced the day before will be Alessandro Gisotti, Prefect of Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, Paolo Ruffini, Fr. Lombardi and Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

Each day will begin with prayer, then will consist of two interventions in the morning, and one in the afternoon, each followed with a question and answer session, and breaking into working groups based on language. Some highlights of these days, they explained, will be the Penitential Liturgy on Saturday afternoon and the Mass on Sunday morning. The Pope will not deliver the homily at either of these given that following Sunday’s Mass and before the Angelus at noon, he will give a concluding speech. Some victims, male and female, will be present during moments of prayer. The organizers will meet some victims and victim advocates ahead of the conference, and moderator, Fr. Lombardi, has offered to victims to take their handwritten messages and convey them to those gathered.

Some moments of the encounter will be able to be followed via streaming: the morning prayers, the Holy Father’s brief introduction the first day, all the relator’s interventions, nine in total (three of which by women), the Penitential Liturgy, and the Pope’s concluding discourse on the last day, after the Mass and before the Angelus.

“We all know how important this meeting is in the life of the Church,’ said Sr Bernadette Reis.

The speakers reminded that there are already effective guidelines and protocols in place, for zero tolerance of sexual abuse toward minors and toward negligence of Bishops in Pope Francis’ 2016 Motu Proprio ‘Like a Loving Mother.’

This issue is that these need to be completely observed and embraced and followed, and never ignored or neglected. While some parts of the world, especially in Anglophone countries, and some parts of Europe have taken them to heart, other parts of the world have not.

Various questions came up following the speakers’ brief interventions. One journalist observed that more than 80 percent of the cases involve abuse against teenagers of the male sex, and asked in the context of transparency if homosexuality therefore is going to be considered.

Cardinal Cupich said it is “right to admit and recognize that this large percentage of the abuses are male toward male abuse,’ but at the same time he reminded: “according to professional reports, such as the John Jay Report or or the Royal Commission in Australia, homosexuality is no more a contributing factor to abuse than any other.”

He reminded that these cases that which in the US in the 1960s and 1970s were so rampant, dramatically were reduced once effective measures went into place, for the formation of priests, bishops, male and female religious and roles of responsibility in the Church. By 2002 onward, he said, we see a massive reduction. He noted that we see about five cases a year now, noting that in 2017 there were seven substantiated cases, and four were committed by the same priest.

When some journalists alluded to those accused of abuse or misconduct operating in roles in the Vatican, Archbishop Scicluna underscored: “Rome needs to know that what it asks of local churches, it needs to be ready to apply at home.”

“Guidelines and practices,” Fr Zollner said, “need to be carried out throughout the whole world. Here [acknowledging the origins of the journalists in the press office], we have many from the West. But this needs attention and reactions not just from North and South America, and Central Europe, but from far beyond.”

When a journalist alluded to a book or conservative or liberal theories that there is hypocrisy within the hierarchy of the Church, in not following celibacy and often homosexually, and that this enables a system of covering up, Archbishop Scicluna began by noting: “I have investigated cases, not [their] cover up.”

“But,” he said clearly: “a system which ensures or enables cover up needs to go and we must condemn it.”

Given that among the 190 participants, there are about 10 women, Archbishop Scicluna and Cardinal Cupich agreed that there should be more women taking part but stressed that most present before arriving likely consulted lay experts, many of whom are women. They noted that women, have helped them personally to develop further expertise on the theme and with decision-making on abuse cases.

“Women, especially women religious in Asia and Africa,” Fr. Zollner observed, “are of most importance in safeguarding.”

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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