We undertake systematic support for people wounded in the Church – said Archbishop Wojciech Polak, Primate of Poland and Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, during the press conference “Helping the Wounded in the Church”.
The Primate of Poland presented the activities of the Church for the victims, he spoke about the Saint Joseph Foundation, which is beginning its work, trainings conducted all over Poland and supporting dioceses in working out principles of prevention.
The conference started with the testimony of Mr. Tadeusz, who in his childhood was a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. “This experience has had a huge impact on my mental and spiritual life and on my family and professional relationships for 30 years” – he said. He forgave the priest who hurt him. “Because I risked my life and came back to the Church, God made me fit for marriage. Today I am a husband and father of several children” – stressed the man. He added that for normal functioning he still needs therapeutic, pharmacological and spiritual support.
The Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth Archbishop Polak emphasized: “Mr. Tadeusz’s testimony was a cry to us not to be indifferent. We are looking for the best way to answer this cry. We are doing everything to break the indifference”.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak summarized the current state of assistance to the victims and presented the activities that will be undertaken by the Church in the coming months. He also informed that at the beginning of this year the Foundation was registered in the National Court Register. “We want the Saint Joseph Foundation to have a coordinator in each diocese who will reach out with help and support to those who need it there where they are” – he said.
The Primate of Poland also spoke about the “Wounded in the Church” initiative that consists mainly in a helpline. Those involved in the initiative not only offer advice but also provide concrete help. Archbishop Wojciech Polak also informed about preventive actions taken by the Church in Poland. “The Child Protection Centre is doing a huge job. Father Adam Żak and his team conduct trainings all over Poland. Priests, monks, nuns, catechists, educators and animators are trained. So far about 1000 people have already participated in the trainings. In each diocese and religious province there is a designated delegate for the protection of children and youth – a person responsible for receiving reports of sexual abuse of minors by a cleric and for indicating psychological, legal and pastoral assistance” – he said.
Archbishop Polak reminded that in October last year, the Polish Episcopate amended the “Guidelines” on canonical investigation in case of clerical accusations of abuse of minors. “This was in connection with Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, in which he recommended that each bishops’ conference should establish a system allowing for the submission, in an accessible manner, of reports of alleged pedophile crimes against minors” – he said.
Barbara Smolińska, a psychotherapist and co-initiator of the “Wounded in the Church” initiative, pointed out that the testimonies of the victims prove that for full healing one needs a skilful combination of spiritual support and professional psychotherapy.
The conference was accompanied by the premiere of the book “Tears of Innocence. Sexual violence in childhood. The Way of Spiritual Healing” by Joël Pralong, published by the Dominican Publishing House “W drodze”.