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Pope sends message to Latin American congress on abuse prevention

In a message to participants at the Second Latin American Congress on the prevention of abuse, a meeting taking place in Asuncion, Paraguay, Pope Francis encourages them in their efforts to prevent sexual abuse in the Church and to ensure measures are followed so children and vulnerable adults are always safe.

By Vatican News staff writer

In a message dated 8 March, Pope Francis offered words of encouragement to participants taking part in the Second Latin American Congress on the prevention of abuse, focusing on effective handling of sexual abuse cases. The meeting is taking place in Asuncion, Paraguay until 16 March, a gathering jointly sponsored by the Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, read the Pope’s message and offered his own wide-ranging reflection on the topic. Participants at the congress come from across Latin America and Europe.

Apostles of Prevention

The Pope in his message called the participants, “Apostoles of Prevention”, encouraging them in all their efforts, including the newly inaugurated Centre for Studies on Human Dignity and Prevention of Abuse, established in Asuncion, Paraguay, intended as a national focal point dedicated to this purpose. 

Urgent and essential work

Saying their work in favor of protection of the most vulnerable is “urgent and esential” and a reflection of how the local Church is acting, the Pope recalled institutional steps to assist them, recalling the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium, in which he called on the Roman Curia to render ever greater service to the local churches. He underscored the priority for every local Church to establish clear procedures for the protection of vulnerable people in the Church. And he recalled how the Pontifical Commission or the Protection of Minors has the role of overseeing the proper implementation of Vos estis Lux Mundi, so that abused persons have clear and accessible paths to seek justice.

In parts of the Church where adequate prevention measures are still in early stages due to lack of resources, the Pope called on special assistance for them so that “cruel inequalities” that plague societies do not also characterize our Church. 

Healing the harm

Recalling the summit four years ago at the Vatican bringing together bishops, religious, and lay experts from around the world with members of the Roman Curia to address the mishandling of child sexual abuse by the Church hierarchy, the Pope lamented how sexual abuse by clergy and its cover-up by bishops and religious superiors has left an indelible wound on the body of Christ, the Church, due to the harm caused to so many people. He emphasised that, “anyone who lessens the impact of this history or minimizes the current danger dishonors those who have suffered so much and deceives those they claim to serve.”

“Sexual abuse by anyone in the Church, whenever it took place, is a clear and present danger to the well-being of God’s people and it’s mishandling will continue to debase the Gospel of the Lord in the eyes of everyone.”

Change for good

The Pope paid tribute to what Church leaders have done much to confront this evil and stop it from happening again. He said this meeting is a concrete expression of the “desire for change in our Church” and a reflection of the synodal process of meeting, listening, reflecting and helping each another as we seek to implement and strengthen our commitment to prevent abuse in the Church.

“I encourage more such events! Adelante! But we must be able to see the results that children are safer in our Church.”

The Pope writes that he has asked the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors “to oversee and verify the adequacy of sound policies and practices throughout the Church and to compile a report pointing to where improvements are still needed.”

“I commend all these efforts to the intercession of Our Lady of Asuncion, patron of Paraguay, who we know never fails to come to the aid of those who are abandoned and who seek her assistance. May she be a model for this new phase in the life of the Church in Latin America and a source of strength for all those committed to this necessary yet painful aspect of the Church’s ministry.”

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