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Safeguarding & Disability Conference: Injustice affects all

Cardinal Pietro Parolin delivers a speech at the 4th International Safeguarding Conference on the prevention and protection against abuse in the Catholic Church, organized by the Institute of Anthropology at the Gregorian University in Rome.

By Vatican News

Speaking at the 2024 International Safeguarding Conference, an annual event designed to help people work together to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse,  the Vatican Secretary of State noted that abuse is “an injustice that affects everyone, people with and without disabilities.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin delivered his speech at the start of the 18-21 June event, dedicated, in particular, to “Safeguarding and Disability”. The conference, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, was organized by the University’s Institute of Anthropology, founded in 2012 as a Center for the Protection of Minors.

A report by the World Health Organization estimates that 16% of the global population lives with “a significant disability, considering health, environmental, and personal conditions.” Thus, the programme of the conference, bringing together experts, both consecrated and lay, focuses on “the care of children and adults in the face of abuse, with particular attention to people with disabilities due to their greater vulnerability.”

Overcoming barriers and discussing how to combat abuse

“About one in five people worldwide lives with some form of disability, and people with disabilities are more vulnerable to various types of abuse and physical and psychological violence,” Cardinal Parolin said in his opening speech. “Here,” he added, “we have the opportunity to overcome various barriers, meet, and discuss ways to combat abuse.”

The cardinal noted that “in recent years, the international community has made significant progress in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities, but unfortunately, this has not yet happened worldwide.” Therefore, it is necessary, he added, to make “a fairer and more attentive society flourish.”

Preparing Church leaders and creating networks

The conference included several sessions with the participation of the Deaf Catholic Youth Initiative for the Americas (DCYIA), a non-profit organization that supports the pastoral, cultural, and linguistic needs of deaf youth in the Americas. Three American Sign Language interpreters translated the presentations for the audience and assisted participants. Three other sessions were dedicated to the cultural approach to disability in different geographical and social contexts, the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in the life of the Church, and the difficulties that people with disabilities face in recognizing and reporting possible abuses.

The goal, conference promoters explained, is to create “a space for training and preparing Church leaders to address situations of abuse and violence against people with disabilities” and, at the same time, “provide a platform for learning, networking, and sharing best practices in the field of care, prevention, and follow-up for children and adults in situations of violence or abuse.”

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