Pope Francis on February 17, 2019, invited the faithful to pray for the meeting for the protection of minors planned for February 21-24, 2019, which will gather the presidents of episcopal conferences from around the world in the Vatican to address the ongoing abuse crisis in the Church.
The Holy Father’s request came after praying the noonday Angelus with the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.
“From next Thursday to Sunday a meeting will take place in the Vatican of the Presidents of all the Episcopal Conferences, on the issue of the protection of minors in the Church,” Pope Francis said. “I invite you to pray for this appointment, which I wanted as an act of strong pastoral responsibility before an urgent challenge of our time.”
Holy See Press Office Director, Alessandro Gisotti, met journalists on January 16, 2019, to share information about the meeting. Prior to his meeting journalists, the following statement was published, noting elements foreseen in the encounter and noting that Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., former Director of the Holy See Press Office and current President of the Ratzinger Foundation, has been appointed by the Pope to moderate the sessions.
Statement (Working Translation Provided by the Vatican)
The February Meeting on the protection of minors has a concrete purpose: the goal is that all of the Bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors. Pope Francis knows that a global problem can only be resolved with a global response. The Pope wants it to be an assembly of Pastors, not an academic conference – a meeting characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering.
It is fundamental for the Holy Father that when the Bishops who will come to Rome have returned to their countries and their dioceses that they understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.
Regarding the high expectations that have been created around the Meeting, it is important to emphasize that the Church is not at the beginning of the fight against abuse. The Meeting is a stage along the painful journey that the Church has unceasingly and decisively undertaken for over fifteen years.