Following a meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday, Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe said the two leaders had spoken about how to combat the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of children. “We can join forces,” Jagland said, in remarks to Vatican News.
Here are some highlights from the interview:
Today we discussed common challenges in humanity, and one of them is, of course, how to protect, even further, individuals against the arbitrary use of force by authorities. But also at the human level we can see – I mean there is not a new phenomenon, but it has come to the surface, across the world – namely, the sexual abuse of children. This is something which you find everywhere actually, unfortunately, where adults and children are together; and you have it in the church. And we discussed how can we together combat this phenomenon. And we can join forces.
I am aware, which I really appreciate, [of] the initiative that Pope Francis has taken – I mean to call on all the bishops, Catholic bishops, for this conference, taking place next month, to discuss this in a very concrete way. And we, as I told him, we have a judicial instrument in the form of a convention, international treaty, which is about protecting victims and also prevention.
It could be an idea, which I suggested to him, that the Holy See can join this convention. It is open for them and others to join the convention; 47 member states in Europe have already done it. And of course, if the Vatican, and the Council of Europe, together could give a clear message to the world that this is not only unacceptable, but that it is unlawful – the sexual abuse of children – it would be a very, very strong message.
I said to him that his voice is incredibly important today, when he is speaking about the need to protect institutions, to protect multilateralism, multilateral international institutions, to combat poverty. He talks about migration, which is of course inconvenient for many political leaders to hear. But he says it, and that is very, very important in today’s world.
Question: One of the goals of the European council is peace in Europe; we have also anniversary of declarations, in eastern Europe we have some not easy situations; [did you speak] about peace in Europe?
Response: Actually, in the original mission of the Council of Europe was about peace. We are doing that by harmonizing laws, in all of the nation states, which protect human rights and basic democratic rights.