From Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke today:

“The February meeting is unprecedented, and one that shows Pope Francis has made the protection of minors a fundamental priority for the Church.

This is about keeping children safe from harm worldwide. Pope Francis wants Church leaders to have a full understanding of the devastating impact that clerical sexual abuse has on victims.

The meeting is primarily one for bishops – and they have much of the responsibility for this grave problem. But lay men and women who are experts in the field of abuse will give their input, and can help address especially what needs to done to ensure transparency and accountability”.

In addition, the following information was published in the today’s press office bulletin:

The Holy Father has designated as members of the organizing committee for the meeting on the protection of minors in the Church to be held in the Vatican from 21 to 24 February 2019: Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago (USA); Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay (India) and President of the Bishops’ Conference of India; the Most Reverend Charles Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and the Reverend Hans Zollner, S.J., President of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, whom he has named contact person for the committee.

Taking part in the meeting, at which His Holiness will be present, will be the Heads of the Oriental Catholic Churches; the Superiors of the Secretariat of State; the Prefects of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Oriental Churches, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Clergy, for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life; and of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life; the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences; and representatives of the Union of Superiors General and of the International Union of Superiors General.

Involved in the preparatory work for the meeting will be, among others, Dr Gabriella Gambino, Undersecretary for the Section for Life, and Dr Linda Ghisoni, Undersecretary for the Section for the Lay Faithful of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life; the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and some victims of abuse by members of the clergy.


Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, President of the Center for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University speaks about the preparatory work of the organizing Committee for the February meeting on the protection of minors.

An organizing Committee for the meeting next February in the Vatican on the protection of children in the Church has been established. The Holy See Press Office released a statement on Friday announcing this decision on the part of Pope Francis.

Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano interviewed Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, the contact person of the committee, and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

What is the Committee’s goal?
Everything needs to be prepared. And in order to prepare everything well, there needs to be someone to shoulder the burden. The meeting in February is an important event; it’s very important for the Church. It is necessary that it be prepared well, and that it involve all of the Episcopal Conferences right away. Information, reflections, the spirit of prayer and penance and proposals for new concrete action needs to be shared immediately. It is necessary that the awareness of a synodal journal be shared — cum Petro et sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter). We must do everything that we can, as the Holy Father said in his letter to the People of God “to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated”. Organizing the meeting well will help to put together the analysis, the awareness, the shame, the repentance, prayer, and discernment regarding actions to be undertaken and decisions to be made in justice and in truth.

Because of this, the consultations that we will have with victims, with groups of experts, with the laity, with educated men and women is also important. This work will be done together with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, headed by Cardinal O’Malley, of which I am also a member.

Concretely, what will you do from now until the February meeting?
In concrete terms, the Committee will take care of preparing for next February’s meeting in logistic terms as well as in terms of content, according to the directives given by the Holy Father. In view of this, we will be sending a questionnaire to those invited to participate. It is important that there be a sharing of experiences, of the difficulties as well as of the possible solutions to face this terrible scandal. It seems to us that, even by proceeding in this way, the synodal dimension which Pope Francis has called for so many times, will be expressed.

What structure will the February meeting take on?
The structure provides for the freest and most fruitful encounter possible. And at the same time, one that must be prayerful and reflective, of analysis and proposals. So that the meeting might be fruitful, as I have already said, we believe that it is very important that there be a consultation phase, which we will launch soon. The Holy Father has assured that he will be present at the work sessions during the meeting, something that will recall the synodal experience.

Will there be preparatory material?
Certainly one of the Committee’s tasks is that of preparing base documentation for the participants so that February’s meeting might be set within the journey accomplished so far.

Where does the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors fit in with respect to this new Committee?
There will be a close collaborative rapport. I think the fact that I, a member of the Pontifical Commission, was named to coordinate the activities of the organizing Committee demonstrates precisely this and emphasizes, on the Holy Father’s part, the recognition of the work done up till now by the Pontifical Commission. In addition, the Committee will make use of the Commission in the consultative phase that I spoke of earlier, which will be fundamental in order to adequately prepare the meeting in February.

Some are saying that the expectations for the February meeting are too high. What do you think the Pope expects from this meeting?
We are aware that there are high expectations, and it is understandable that this is so, given the gravity of the scandal that has shocked and wounded so many people, believers and non-believers, in so many countries. As the Holy Father wrote in the letter to the People of God, “we feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite. With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.”

The Holy See reiterated this clearly: “Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”

And the Holy Father has convoked the meeting in February – an unprecedented decision – precisely because he is aware that the protection of minors is a fundamental priority for the Church, for its mission, and not only for its credibility. For this reason, he wants the encounter between the presidents of episcopal conferences and the other participants in the meeting to be free, without conditions, animated by prayer and by a spirit of parresia (frankness, boldness) which he has particularly at heart.