LENT, A PILGRIMAGE OF EXPECTATION AND HOPE – ABUSE SURVIVOR RESIGNS FROM VATICAN COMMISSION TO PROTECT MINORS – COMMISSION MEMBER EXPLAINS HER REASONS FOR LEAVING

Pope Francis tweeted today: Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death.

A bit of trivia about Ash Wednesday from an Aleteia article by Gerith Gardner: This year, Ash Wednesday falls on the March 1 feast day of Saint David, and there couldn’t be a more fitting saint to share this day with. David founded a monastery in Wales, where both he and his monks drank no beer or wine, as he practiced extreme asceticism—abstaining from all forms of indulgence.

Today’s Station Church in Rome – Santa Sabina: https://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-of-ash-wed/ash-wednesday-santa-sabina/

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LENT, A PILGRIMAGE OF EXPECTATION AND HOPE

Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday by presiding at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square and, later in the afternoon, by processing from the Benedictine church of Sant’Anselmo to the nearby Dominican basilica of Santa Sabina where he celebrated Mass and received ashes. (file photo: Ash Wednesday)

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His catechesis at the audience focused on Lent and he opened his weekly lesson by noting that “today, Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten journey towards Easter.  Lent is essentially a pilgrimage of hope, a season of penance and spiritual renewal that prepares us to share more fully in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.”

Francis said, “We relive the experience of the Exodus, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbor.”  The Scriptures tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted forty years, the time span of a generation, and difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses.

“Easter is Jesus’ own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism.”

Francis explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross. “This doesn’t mean that he did everything and we don’t have to do anything… it doesn’t mean he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage. That is not how it works.”

He stated that “our salvation is Jesus’ gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our ‘yes’ and our participation.”

“By following Christ along the way of the Cross,” continud the Holy Father, “we share in his victory over sin and death; by living the new life bestowed by the Holy Spirit in the communion of the Church, we are united more fully to the Lord in the sacraments, prayer and adoration.

ABUSE SURVIVOR RESIGNS FROM VATICAN COMMISSION TO PROTECT MINORS

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) issued the following statement after the resignatiuon of commission member and abuse survivor, Mrs. Marie Collins:

On Monday, February 13, 2017, Mrs. Marie Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] advised Cardinal Sean O’Malley, President of the PCPM, of her intent to resign from the Commission effective March 1, 2017.

Mrs. Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission since its inception in 2014 is a survivor of clerical abuse, and consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of victims/survivors to be a priority of the Church.  In discussing with the Cardinal, and in her resignation letter to the Holy Father, Mrs. Collins cited her frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices in the Roman Curia.

Mrs. Collins accepted an invitation from Cardinal O’Malley to continue to work with the Commission in an educational role in recognition of her exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.

The Holy Father accepted Mrs. Collins resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

At the bottom of the letter on Commission letterhead, they listed two contacts: info@tutelaminorum.va and www.protectionofminors.va

The Holy See Press Office released the following Statement from PCPM President, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap.

“On behalf of the Members of the Commission I have expressed to Marie Collins our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the Commission.  We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the Commission.  As the Commission gathers for the plenary meeting next month we will have an opportunity to discuss these matters.  With the members of the Commission I am deeply grateful for Marie’s willingness to continue to work with us in the education of church leaders, including the upcoming programs for new bishops and for the dicasteries of the Holy See.  Our prayers will remain with Marie and with all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.”

COMMISSION MEMBER EXPLAINS HER REASONS FOR LEAVING

Marie Collins, in a piece she wrote for ncronline, said she intended “to respect the confidentiality of my former colleagues on the Commission and the work they are doing,” although some has already been made public.

She outlined some of the stumbling blocks the commission has run into: “lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance. The most significant problem has been reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope.”

She said she could “no longer be sustained by hope. As a survivor I have watched events unfold with dismay.”

Collins wrote: “The Commission’s recommendation for a Tribunal to be put in place whereby negligent bishops could be held accountable was approved by Pope Francis and announced in June 2015. Yet it was found by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as Baroness Sheila Hollins stated to the Royal Commission, to have unspecified “legal” difficulties, and so was never implemented.”

Marie Collins, who was harsh in her criticism of various Vatican offices, wrote: “When I accepted my appointment to the Commission in 2014, I said publicly that if I found what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was being said to the public I would not remain. This point has come. I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity.”

“In the past three years,” the former commission member wrote, “I have never had the opportunity to sit and talk to the pope but if I had I would ask him to do three things:

  1. Give the Commission the responsibility and the power to oversee implementation of the recommendations when they are approved. No matter how much work is put into the recommendations given to the Holy Father and no matter how much he supports them they must be properly implemented to have any effect.
  2. Give the Commission an adequate, independent budget to do its work without having each item of expenditure go through the internal Vatican approval process.
  3. Remove the restriction on the recruitment of professional staff from outside the Vatican.

She did write that, “Despite everything I have said, I do believe there is value in the Commission continuing its work. The members are sincerely putting every effort into very important projects with the intention of moving things forward.”

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MEMBER OF PONTIFICAL COMMISSION MEETS WITH AUSTRALIAN ABUSE VICTIMS – PRESS OFFICE STATEMENT ON PROTECTION OF MINORS

MEMBER OF PONTIFICAL COMMISSION MEETS WITH AUSTRALIAN ABUSE VICTIMS

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors issued a statement on Friday in response to Cardinal George Pell’s hearings via video link with Australia’s Royal Commission investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

The statement notes that a member of the Pontifical Commission, Jesuit Fr Hans Zollner, has met with survivors of clerical sex abuse who have come over from Australia for the hearings.  The survivors requested the meeting in order to share ideas about healing and about how to protect children from abuse in the future.

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While acknowledging that the problem is not limited to the Catholic Church, the survivors spoke especially about models of educating children, parents and teachers to effect structural change within the Church and to safeguard vulnerable people.

Here is the full statement from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors:

Over the past two days, Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, met in two occasions with Mr David Ridsdale, Mr Andrew Collins and Mr Peter Blenkiron, victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse from Ballarat, Australia, who have come to Rome for Cardinal George Pell’s hearing by the Royal Commission. Cardinal Pell had asked to arrange this meeting after these gentlemen requested to meet with a member of the Pontifical Commission. These gentlemen explained the reason for wanting to meet with a member of the Pontifical Commission is that, “We would like to discuss ideas we have had about healing and the future to protect children from institutional abuse. We know this problem had been wider than the Catholic Church but our experiences have been in this environment. We are keen to develop links with your group as it is a world-wide issue.”

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The victims/survivors spoke of models of educating children, parents and teachers so as to effect structural change within the Church and society concerning the effective safeguarding of children and adolescents. This discussion comes at a time when the Pontifical Commission decided at their 2016 February Plenary Assembly to have one strategic focus on safeguarding of minors in Catholic schools at their September 2016 Assembly.

Fr. Hans appreciated very much the victims’/survivors’ concerns and their proposals for preventive measures, and he will report back to the other members of the Pontifical Commission, so that all can learn from the victims’/survivors’ experience to improve the Commission’s work in healing in the present, and better understand how to prevent sexual abuse by those in service to the Church from happening again in the future.

During the meeting, Fr. Hans explained to the victims/survivors the purpose of the Commission and also talked, in particular, about his work and initiatives in prevention from abuse within and outside the Church as President of the “Centre for Child Protection” of the Institute of Psychology of the Pontifical Gregorian University. The Ballarat survivors met also with some of the students of the Diploma-programme in Safeguarding of Minors, offered at the Gregorian University.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was created by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

PRESS OFFICE STATEMENT ON PROTECTION OF MINORS

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., today, March 4, issued the following note regarding the protection of minors from sexual abuse:

“The depositions of Cardinal Pell before the Royal Commission as part of its inquiry carried out by live connection between Australia and Rome, and the contemporary presentation of the Oscar award for best film to ‘Spotlight’, on the role of the Boston Globe in denouncing the cover-up of crimes by numerous paedophile priests in Boston (especially during the years 1960 to 1980) have been accompanied by a new wave of attention from the media and public opinion on the dramatic issue of sexual abuse of minors, especially by members of the clergy.

The sensationalist presentation of these two events has ensured that, for a significant part of the public, especially those who are least informed or have a short memory, it is thought that the Church has done nothing, or very little, to respond to these terrible problems, and that it is necessary to start anew. Objective consideration shows that this is not the case. The previous archbishop of Boston resigned in 2002 following the events considered in “Spotlight” (and after a famous meeting of American cardinals convoked in Rome by Pope John Paul II in April 2002), and since 2003 (that is, for 13 years) the archdiocese has been governed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, universally known for his rigour and wisdom in confronting the issue of sexual abuse, to the extent of being appointed by the Pope as one of his advisers and as president of the Commission instituted by the Holy Father for the protection of minors.

The tragic events of sexual abuse in Australia, too, have been the subject of inquiries and legal and canonical procedures for many years. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Sydney for World Youth Day in 2008 (eight years ago), he met with a small group of victims at the seat of the archdiocese governed by Cardinal Pell, since the issue was also of great importance at the time and the archbishop considered a meeting of this type to be very timely.

Merely to offer an idea of the attention with which these problems have been followed, the section of the Vatican website dedicated to ‘Abuse of minors: the Church’s response’, established around ten years ago, contains over 60 documents and interventions.

The courageous commitment of the Popes to facing the crises that subsequently emerged in various situations and countries – such as the United States, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Holland, and in the Legionaries of Christ – has been neither limited nor indifferent. The universal procedures and canonical norms have been renewed; guidelines have been required and drawn up by the Episcopal Conferences, not only to respond to abuses committed but also to ensure adequate prevention measures; apostolic visitations have taken place to intervene in the most serious situations; and the Congregation of the Legionaries has been radically reformed. These are all actions intended to respond fully and with far-sightedness to a wound that has manifested itself with surprising and devastating gravity, especially in certain regions and certain periods. Benedict XVI’s Letter to the Irish faithful in March 2010 probably remains the most eloquent document of reference, relevant beyond Ireland, for understanding the attitude and the legal, pastoral and spiritual response of the Popes to these upheavals in the Church in our time; recognition of the grave errors committed and a request for forgiveness, priority action and justice for victims, conversion and purification, commitment to prevention and renewed human and spiritual formation.

The encounters held by Benedict XVI and Francis with groups of victims have accompanied this by now long road with the example of listening, the request for forgiveness, consolation and the direct involvement of the Popes.

In many countries the results of this commitment to renewal are comforting; cases of abuse have become very rare and therefore the majority of those considered nowadays and which continue to come to light belong to a relatively distant past of several decades ago. In other countries, usually due to very different cultural contexts that are still characterised by silence, much remains to be done and there is no lack of resistance and difficulties, but the road to follow has become clearer.

The constitution of the Commission for the protection of minors announced by Pope Francis in December 2013, made up of members from every continent, indicates how the path of the Catholic Church has matured. After establishing and developing internally a decisive response to the problems of sexual abuse of minors (by priests or other ecclesial workers), it is necessary to face systematically the problem of how to respond not only to the problem in every part of the Church, but also more broadly how to help the society in which the Church lives to face the problems of abuse of minors, given that – as we should all be aware, even though there is still a significant reluctance to admit this – in every part of the world the overwhelming majority of cases of abuse take place not in ecclesiastical contexts, but rather outside them (in Asia, for instance, tens of millions of minors are abused, certainly not in a Catholic context).

In summary, the Church, wounded and humiliated by the wound of abuse, intends to react not only to heal herself, but also to make her difficult experience in this field available to others, to enrich her educational and pastoral service to society as a whole, which generally still has a long path to take to realise the seriousness of these problems and to deal with them.

From this perspective the events in Rome of the last few days may be interpreted in a positive light. Cardinal Pell must be accorded the appropriate acknowledgement for his dignified and coherent personal testimony (twenty hours of dialogue with the Royal Commission), from which yet again there emerges an objective and lucid picture of the errors committed in many ecclesial environments (this time in Australia) during the past decades. This is certainly useful with a view to a common ‘purification of memory’.
Recognition is also due to many members of the group of victims who came from Australia for demonstrating their willingness to establish constructive dialogue with Cardinal Pell and with the representative of the Commission for the protection of minors, Fr. Hans Zollner S.J., of the Pontifical Gregorian University, with whom they further developed prospects for effective commitment to the prevention of abuse.
If the appeals subsequent to ‘Spotlight’ and the mobilisation of victims and organisations on the occasion of the depositions of Cardinal Pell are able to contribute to supporting and intensifying the long march in the battle against abuse of minors in the universal Catholic Church and in today’s world (where the dimensions of these tragedies are endless), then they are welcome.

 

BOSTON CARDINAL O’MALLEY’S STATEMENT ON “SPOTLIGHT”

BOSTON CARDINAL O’MALLEY’S STATEMENT ON “SPOTLIGHT”

From the Boston Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper:

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley released the following statement to The Pilot March 1, after the film Spotlight won two awards at the 2016 Oscar ceremony that took place in Los Angeles February 28. The movie describes the Boston Globe’s investigation into the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston that led to a series of stories that ran in 2002:

Spotlight is an important film for all impacted by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse. By providing in-depth reporting on the history of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the media led the Church to acknowledge the crimes and sins of its personnel and to begin to address its failings, the harm done to victims and their families and the needs of survivors. In a democracy such as ours, journalism is essential to our way of life. The media’s role in revealing the sexual abuse crisis opened a door through which the Church has walked in responding to the needs of survivors.

Protecting children and providing support for survivors and their families must be a priority in all aspects of the life of the Church.

We are committed to vigilant implementation of policies and procedures for preventing the recurrence of the tragedy of the abuse of children. These include comprehensive child safety education programs, mandatory background checks and safe environments training, mandatory reporting to and cooperating with civil authorities with regard to allegations of abuse, and caring for survivors and their families through the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach. The Archdiocese consistently provides counselling and medical services for survivors and family members who seek our help and we remain steadfast in that commitment. We continue to seek the forgiveness of all who have been harmed by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse and pray that each day the Lord may guide us on the path toward healing and renewal.

(JFL: Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, is one of the Council of 9 Cardinals that advises Pope Francis, and he also heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors)

DOMINICAN FR. JIM SULLIVAN IS GUEST ON “VATICAN INSIDER” – VATICAN PUBLISHES STATUTES OF COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS – PACKED ITINERARY FOR PAPAL VISIT TO SOUTH AMERICA

Earlier this afternoon I watched a very moving ceremony in Washington, D.C. marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II – VE Day – Victory in Europe Day. So many people to thank for who we are and what we have today! Not just the U.S. but the countries in Europe freed from the threat of Nazism. I hope such anniversaries  – and what they commemorate, as well as the values espoused by the young men who gave their lives to defend and preserve freedoms – will long remain in our minds, especially as we live under new threats of an erosion of freedom of religion, attacks on Christianity, on traditional marriage and on the values that Americans have held dear for well nearly two and a half centuries.

DOMINICAN FR. JIM SULLIVAN IS GUEST ON “VATICAN INSIDER”

My guest this weekend on Vatican Insider is Dominican Fr. Jim Sullivan, director of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education on the Rome campus of the Pontifical North American College.  He tell us why ICTE was founded in 1971, how its courses are organized, and how the priests who come to Rome for a monthlong course or a session lasting three months, study, live, and travel during their time in the Eternal City.

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ICTE has a great story and a beautiful location, and Fr. Sullivan will bring it all to us. I visited the Casa O’Toole where the Institute is located and took a lot of photos which you can see here in the carousel. You see the Casa O’Toole (a former convent where Mother Pasqualina once lived – here’s some homework for you over the weekend!), the area grounds, the stupendous views from some of the rooms (all rooms at the Casa have a view!!), the very lovely chapel, etc.

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As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

VATICAN PUBLISHES STATUTES OF COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS 

The Statutes of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, set up last year by Pope Francis, were published today in the original Italian and in English translation. They had been approved on April 21 by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, upon mandate by the Holy Father, after a draft presented by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the pontifical commission. The Statues consist of six articles – Nature and Competence, Composition and Members, Plenary Assembly, Personnel, Working Groups – and General Norms.

The first part explains that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is an autonomous institution linked to the Holy See with a public legal personality and has an advisory function in the service of the Holy Father. The protection of minors, the text continues, is of the first importance, and therefore it is the role of the Commission to propose initiatives to the Pontiff, following the modalities indicated in the Statutes, to promote the responsibility of the particular Churches in the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults. These proposals will have to receive prior approval by the majority of two thirds of the members of the Commission. For the elaboration of the proposals, when the matter falls within the competence of other ecclesial bodies, the president of the Commission, with the assistance of the secretary, will consult the competent entities for the protection of minors in the particular Churches, the episcopal conferences, the conferences of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as the dicastery of the Roman Curia competent in the matter. This consultation will take place in a transparent manner with the members of the Commission, based in Vatican City State.

The Commission, according to the second part, is composed of a maximum of eighteen members appointed by the Holy Father for a three-year period, which may be reconfirmed, and are selected from persons of recognised competence in various areas linked to the activity entrusted to the Commission. Both the president and the secretary are appointed from among the members by the Holy Father for a period of three years, a mandate that may be reconfirmed.

The plenary assembly, as explained in the third part, will be convoked twice yearly. Upon request by two thirds of the Members and with the consent of the president, an extraordinary plenary assembly may be convoked. For the plenary assembly to be considered valid, at least two thirds of the members must be present; they may participate via video conference.

The members of the Commission, the personnel and the collaborators with the working groups, according to the final part, are required to observe the norms of professional secrecy regarding the news and information they become aware of in the exercise of their tasks and functions (source: VIS) CLICK HERE TO READ STATUTES: http://www.news.va/en/news/statutes-of-the-commission-for-the-protection-of-m

To complete the publication of the Statutes, the Chirograph by which the Pope instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on March 22, 2014 was also published today. Click here to read the entire text: http://www.news.va/en/news/publication-of-the-chirograph-by-which-pope-franci

PACKED ITINERARY FOR PAPAL VISIT TO SOUTH AMERICA

(VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today published the Pope’s itinerary for his apostolic trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay from July 5 to the 13th.

In just eight days, Pope Francis will deliver some 22 speeches and homilies on his ninth international voyage. He has not included his native Argentina on this trip and has said in the past, he would go there in 2016.

ECUADOR: The Pope will leave Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 5 and will arrive at the Mariscal Sucre airport in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, at 3 p.m. local time, where the welcome ceremony will be held. On Monday the 6th, he will proceed to Guayaquil to celebrate Mass in the shrine of Divine Mercy, after which he will lunch at the Colegio Javier with the Jesuit community. Upon return to Quito, he will pay a courtesy visit to the Ecuadorian president in the presidential palace and will subsequently visit the Cathedral. In the morning of Tuesday 7 July he will meet with the bishops of Ecuador in the Congress Center of Bicentenary Park where he will celebrate Mass. In the afternoon he will encounter representatives of schools and universities in the Pontifical University of Ecuador and later, representatives of civil society in the Church of San Francisco, followe by a private visit to the “Iglesia de la Compania” On Wednesday July 8, he will visit the rest home of the Missionaries of Charity, will meet with clergy, men and women religious and seminarians at the national Marian shrine, El Quinche and later depart by air for Bolivia.

BOLIVIA: Upon arrival at the airport of El Alto in La Paz, he will give an address and, following the welcome ceremony, will transfer to the Government Palace to pay a courtesy visit to the president. From there, he will go to the Cathedral of La Paz to meet with civil authorities, after which he will travel by air to Santa Cruz de la Sierra where he will spend the night. On Thursday July 9 Francis will celebrate Mass in Cristo Redentor Square and meet with men and women religious in the Don Bosco school. Afterwards,  he will participate in the World Meeting of Popular Movements in the Expo trade fair center. Friday morning, July 10 he will visit the Santa Cruz-Palmasola re-education center and then go to the parish church of Santa Cruz to meet with the bishops of Bolivia. The Pope will depart for Paraguay from the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, landing at around 3 p.m. local time in the Silvio Pettirossi airport of Asuncion.

PARAGUAY: After arriving in Paraguay, the Pope will pay a courtesy visit to the president in the Palacio de Lopez where he will also meet with civil authorities and the diplomatic corps. On Saturday July 11, he will visit the “Ninos de Acosta Nu” general pediatric hospital, followed by Mass in the square of the Marian sanctuary of Caacupe. That afternoon he will meet with representatives of civil society in the Leon Condou stadium of the San Jose school. The day will conclude with the celebration of vespers with the bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, seminarians and Catholic movements in the metropolitan cathedral of Our Lady of Asuncion. Sunday, July 12 will begin with a visit to the people of Banado Norte in the Chapel of San Juan Batista, and Mass in the Nu Guazu field. The Holy Father will meet and dine with the bishops of Paraguay in the Cultural Center of the apostolic nunciature. His last engagement will be a meeting with young people at the Costanera riverside area. At 7 p.m. local time Francis will depart by air for Rome, where he is expected to arrive on Monday, July 13 at around 1.45 p.m.

COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS ISSUES STATEMENT AFTER 3-DAY MEETING – CARDINAL O’MALLEY: COMMISSION ON SEX ABUSE TO STRESS BISHOPS’ ACCOUNTABILITY

Nothing can bring a person out of a four-day battle with a mini-flu faster than a journalistic deadline! I actually wanted to write about the following important stories as they happened over the weekend (this is the first of two columns I will post today), but I could not even sit at a keyboard so this is catch-up Monday (although I actually rested most of the day) with the help of news.va. Lots of news these past days and, as you will see, lots more to come the rest of the week, I’m dedicating this column to the just-concluded three-day meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Other weekend news to come soon.

COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS ISSUES STATEMENT AFTER 3-DAY MEETING

The members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered in Plenary Assembly February 6-8, in the Vatican. The following took part: Cardinal Sean O’MALLEY, OFM Cap. (United States), President; Mons. Robert OLIVER (United States), Secretary; Rev. Luis Manuel ALI HERRERA (Colombia); Catherine BONNET (France); Marie COLLINS (Ireland); Gabriel DY-LIACCO (Philippines); Sheila HOLLINS (England); Bill KILGALLON (New Zealand); Sr. Kayula LESA, MSC (Zambia); Sr. Hermenegild MAKORO, CPS (Zimbabwe); Kathleen MCCORMACK (Australia); Claudio PAPALE (Italy); Peter SAUNDERS (England); Hanna SUCHOCKA (Poland); Krysten WINTER-GREEN (United States); Rev. Humberto Miguel YÁÑEZ, SJ (Argentina) and Rev. Hans ZOLLNER, SJ (Germany).

COMMISSION ON ABUSE-MEMBERS

This year’s meeting was the first opportunity for all 17 members of the recently expanded Commission to come together and share their progress in the task entrusted them by the Holy Father, namely to advise him in the safeguarding and protection of minors in the Church.

During the meetings, members presented reports from their Working Groups of experts, developed over the past year. The Commission then completed their recommendations regarding the formal structure of the Commission and agreed upon several proposals to submit to the Holy Father for consideration.

The Working Groups are an integral part of the Commission’s working structure. Between Plenary Sessions, these groups bring forward research and projects in areas that are central to the mission of making the Church ‘a safe home’ for children, adolescents, and vulnerable adults. These include: pastoral care for survivors and their families, education, guidelines in best practice, formation to the priesthood and religious life, ecclesial and civil norms governing allegations of abuse, and the accountability of people in positions of responsibility within the Church when dealing with allegations of abuse.

The Commission is keenly aware that the issue of accountability is of major importance. In its Assembly, members agreed on an initial proposal to submit to Pope Francis for consideration. Moreover, the Commission is developing processes to ensure accountability for everyone in the Church – clergy, religious, and laity – who work with minors. Part of ensuring accountability is raising awareness and understanding at all levels of the Church regarding the seriousness and urgency in implementing correct safeguarding procedures. To this end, the Commission also agreed to develop seminars to educate Church leadership in the area of the protection of minors.

Following on from the Holy Father’s Letter to Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and to Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, dated February 2, the Commission looks forward to collaborating with churches on a local level in making its expertise available to ensure best practices in guidelines for the protection of minors.

The Commission is also preparing materials for a Day of Prayer for all those who have been harmed by sexual abuse. This will underscore our responsibility to work for spiritual healing and also help raise awareness among the Catholic community about the scourge of the abuse of minors.

Pope Francis writes in his letter to Church leaders, “families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children”. Conscious of the gravity of our task to advise the Holy Father in this effort, we ask you to support our work with prayer. (Vatican Radio)

CARDINAL O’MALLEY: COMMISSION ON SEX ABUSE TO STRESS BISHOPS’ ACCOUNTABILITY

(Vatican Radio) – Speaking to the press on Saturday, February 7, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said the 17-member Commission’s primary role is to help bishops conferences not just respond to accusations but also to protect minors and vulnerable adults.

To do this the Commission is setting up working groups, with outside consultants, on issues such as outreach to victims, the nature of abuse, Church law governing cases and accountability.

Cardinal O’ Malley stressed that key to all of the Commissions’ work is collaboration with local churches around the globe and with Vatican dicasteries.  One idea being considered is workshops for people working in the Roman Curia and for new bishops who come to Rome for orientation courses.

Referring to the Holy Father’s just-issued Letter to Bishops and Religious Superiors on this very matter, Cardinal O’Malley added that each conference will be asked to name a contact person to work with the Commission for Child Protection.

Another area that comes under the Commission’s mandate is to collaborate with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in ensuring that the guidelines for child protection sent in by the bishops conferences follow best practices.

He said “96 % of bishops conferences have sent their child protection guidelines to the Vatican” adding that the Commission will “reach out” to the remaining 4%, most of whom are from developing churches that may lack the adequate resources for the task.

Here the Cardinal underlined that, without norms, bishops sometimes improvise when faced with accusations of abuse by clergy, mistakes are made and people are hurt.

In this regard, he said the child protection commission is “very, very concerned” about accountability of bishops and working on policy recommendations for the Holy Father’s approval.

These would include consequences for bishops who do not comply with child protection norms, or respond to allegations.

Cardinal O’Malley was joined Saturday at the ress office by Peter saunders, a member of the Commission from South West London.  Saunders, a survivor of abuse himself, established NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. He told reporters that the accountability of bishops is a central concern of Child Protection Commission, adding that he came to the Vatican “with trepidation”, but the Commission meeting has given him “hope for change.”

Saunders said, “There is a determination that what happened to me and others will not happen again.”

Also present Saturday was Sister Kayula Lesa, a Religious Sister of Charity from Zambia, who has extensive experience in education and in child protection. She added that the Church at all levels must protect all minors from abuse not just within the Church, but also in family and wider society.

To this end, the Commission will propose a Day of Prayer for survivors of abuse, for the Holy Father’s approval.

POPE FRANCIS TO BISHOPS: THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE CHURCH FOR SEX ABUSERS – THERE’S ALSO THIS…..

The next ten days at the Vatican will be busy ones for those who wear the red hat of a cardinal – or are about to receive one.

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley is in Rome to chair the three-day meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that starts tomorrow and ends Sunday (see story below). With barely a moment to spare, on Monday Cardinal O’Malley will join eight of his brother eminences to start a three-day meeting of the C9 – the nine-member Council of Cardinals that meets four or five times a years with Pope Francis to advise him on Church and Vatican business. That meeting goes through Wednesday.

Then, on February 12 and 13, Pope Francis wil meet with almost the entire College of Cardinals (all who can travel to Rome for this occasion)  to discuss, among other issues, the reform of the Roman Curia, a reform that got underway almost at the start of Francis’ papacy.

On February 14, the Holy Father will create 20 cardinals in a consistory, 15 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave (until they too turn 80). The next day he will concelebrate Mass with the new cardinals in the presence of the other members of the College of Cardinals.

At the moment, the ceiling for the under-80 cardinal electors stands at 120 – a limit established by Pope Paul VI.  I can easily envision Pope Francis eventually extending this number beyond 120, and perhaps even extending voting privilges to those over 80. It must be said, however, that the under-80 cardinal electors, choosing from among their members, can elect an over-80 cardinal.

POPE FRANCIS TO BISHOPS: THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE CHURCH FOR SEX ABUSERS

The Vatican today published a letter from Pope Francis to presidents of episcopal conferences and to superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life  and Societies of Apostolic Life that asked for their “close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors” as it works to rid the Church of the “scourge” of sex abuse. The commission meets February 6-8 in the Vatican.

The letter is dated February 2, feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

The news.va website posted this photo of Pope Francis along with his Letter – I like to think of this as, “Let the children come unto me.”

POPE FRANCIS - LETTER ABUSE

And here is another “Let the children come to me” moment (artist unknown):

Jesus and the Children artist unknown

Following is the entire Letter by Pope Francis in English:

“Last March I established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which had first been announced in December 2013, for the purpose of offering proposals and initiatives meant to improve the norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults.  I then appointed to the Commission a number of highly qualified persons well-known for their work in this field.

“At my meeting in July with persons who had suffered sexual abuse by priests, I was deeply moved by their witness to the depth of their sufferings and the strength of their faith.  This experience reaffirmed my conviction that everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.

“For this reason, last December I added new members to the Commission, in order to represent the Particular Churches throughout the world.  In just a few days, all the members will meet in Rome for the first time.

“In light of the above, I believe that the Commission can be a new, important and effective means for helping me to encourage and advance the commitment of the Church at every level – Episcopal Conferences, Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and others – to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, and to respond to their needs with fairness and mercy.

“Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children.  They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home.  Consequently, priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors.

“Every effort must also be made to ensure that the provisions of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 3 May 2011 are fully implemented.  This document was issued to assist Episcopal Conferences in drawing up guidelines for handling cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.  It is likewise important that Episcopal Conferences establish a practical means for periodically reviewing their norms and verifying that they are being observed.

“It is the responsibility of Diocesan Bishops and Major Superiors to ascertain that the safety of minors and vulnerable adults is assured in parishes and other Church institutions.  As an expression of the Church’s duty to express the compassion of Jesus towards those who have suffered abuse and towards their families, the various Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are urged to identify programmes for pastoral care which include provisions for psychological assistance and spiritual care.  Pastors and those in charge of religious communities should be available to meet with victims and their loved ones; such meetings are valuable opportunities for listening to those have greatly suffered and for asking their forgiveness.

“For all of these reasons, I now ask for your close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors.  The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your Conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programmes of education, training, and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse.

“May the Lord Jesus instil in each of us, as ministers of the Church, the same love and affection for the little ones which characterized his own presence among us, and which in turn enjoins on us a particular responsibility for the welfare of children and vulnerable adults.  May Mary Most Holy, Mother of tenderness and mercy, help us to carry out, generously and thoroughly, our duty to humbly acknowledge and repair past injustices and to remain ever faithful in the work of protecting those closest to the heart of Jesus.”

The complete composition of the Commission follows:

Cardinal Seán O’MALLEY, OFM Cap. (United States), president Mons. Robert OLIVER (United States), secretary – Rev. Luis Manuel ALI HERRERA (Colombia)  – Dr. Catherine BONNET (France) – Marie COLLINS (Ireland) – Dr. Gabriel DY-LIACCO (Philippines) – Prof. Sheila the Baroness HOLLINS (England) – Bill KILGALLON (New Zealand) – Sr. Kayula Gertrude LESA, RSC (Zambia) – Sr. Hermenegild MAKORO, CPS (South Africa) – Kathleen McCORMACK AM (Australia)  – Dr. Claudio PAPALE (Italy) – Peter SAUNDERS (England) – Hon. Hanna SUCHOCKA (Poland) – Dr. Krysten WINTER-GREEN (United States) – Rev. Dr. Humberto Miguel YÁÑEZ, SJ (Argentina) – Rev. Dr. Hans ZOLLNER, SJ (Germany)

THERE’S ALSO THIS…..

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST – Pope Francis has sent a Message to the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, which was attended by US President Barack Obama, lawmakers from both parties, and thousands of guests. A portion of the Message was read during the event, which has taken place since 1953. The full contents of the text was scheduled to be read at the lunch portion of the event. “Dear friends, I send prayerful good wishes for you, for the fruitfulness of your work,” reads the message. I ask you to pray for me, and to join me in praying for our brothers and sisters throughout the world who experience persecution and death for their faith. Upon you, your families, and those whom you serve, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy, and peace.” (Vatican Radio)

VATICAN OFFICIALS DENIED VISAS BY INDIA -The Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI)  alleged that two key Vatican officials who were to address the 27th National Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) in Bengaluru which began on February 3 had been denied visa. Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, President of Pontifical Mission Societies and Adjunct Secretary to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, were key resource persons for the week-long conference. CCBI held  the session in which the two officials were scheduled to participate through video conferencing. Though the two officials had applied for visa in mid-December, their applications were kept pending till the last minute and rejected, a CCBI statement said. Sources claimed that even after the intervention by Vatican’s Secretary of State office the visa applications were kept pending. (Full story here: http://www.news.va/en/news/vatican-officials-unable-to-attend-india-church-me)

POPE FRANCIS: I’M A DINOSAUR WHEN IT COMES TO COMPUTERS. Pope Francis Thursday participated in a Google Hangout session via Youtube with young folks with physical and learning abilities on several different continents, and told one young man who was holding a tablet that he, Pope Francis, is “a dinosaur when it comes to computers.” CC – closed captioning – in English was available on Youtube because the Pope answered all the questions, no matter the language of the question, in Spanish. The event was put together by Scholas Occurentes, Google and Microsoft. Scholas Occurentes is a global network of schools and educational networks inspired by Pope Francis who founded and sponsored similar projects when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. As Pope, Francis asked that this concept be brought to life on an international level and so it was that, on August 14, 2013 the project was born in the Vatican with the help of football greats, Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon, respectively captains of the national teams of Argentina and Italy. Scholas Occurentes’ office is housed in the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, whose chancellor is another Argentinean, Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo. The website http://www.scholasoccurrentes.org/  is predominantly in Spanish but there are some articles in English. The site tells us that the MISSION is “To link schools and educative networks around the world by means of different types of pedagogical, sports and artistic proposals aimed at improving education and achieving inclusion of communities with fewer resources through an active commitment of all social stakeholders. The VISION of Scholas Occurrentes is “to transform the world into an inclusive and educative society.”