At the general audience, Pope Francis recalls the duty to protect victims of abuse, as 18 November marks the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. He also expresses his closeness to workers at struggling factories in Italy’s Veneto region.
By Gabriella Ceraso – Vatican City
Recalling Thursday’s first National Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse, called for by the Italian bishops, Pope Francis emphasized the specific task of those who work alongside young people in educational contexts where forms of abuse are most often registered.
The Italian Episcopal Conference’s invitation calls for prayers to support the paths of human and spiritual recovery of victims and survivors – whoever has been wounded inside or outside the Church – and help for families and communities affected by the suffering their loved ones have endured.
This is the spirit and intention with which the Italian Bishops’ Conference, last March, established this Day on 18 November, coinciding with the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. The World Health Organization estimates of 9.6% of the 204 million children under the age of 18 in the European region have been sexually abused.
In mentioning this National Day for Italy, Pope Francis expressed his hopes that “this initiative can be an opportunity for reflection, awareness, and prayer to support the paths of human and spiritual recovery of the victims”. He also underscored the importance of ensuring the protection of children in the contexts of education, recreation, and training, noting “the inescapable duty of those who have educational responsibilities in the family, the parish, the school, in recreational and athletic ambiances, to protect and respect the adolescents and young people entrusted to them”, since the majority of abuse happens in these contexts.
The Pope’s thoughts then turned to the economic difficulties facing two historic companies in the Veneto region of Italy. The Pope expressed his solidarity with the workers at these two companies, making a “heartfelt appeal so that in this situation, as well as in other similar ones, that put so many families in difficulty, the logic of profit does not prevail but [instead] that of fair and solidarity-based sharing”. He concluded by noting that “at the center of every work issue is always the dignity of the human person: when you do not earn your bread, you lose your dignity. We must pray, very much, for these people”.