By Devin Watkins
Participants in a month-long course held at the Pontifical University of Mexico received an unexpected surprise.
In the middle of their third week learning methods to prevent the sexual abuse of minors, Pope Francis sent a video message encouraging their efforts to protect the Church’s vulnerable members.
The course is important because all minors need to be protected, said the Pope, “so that no one – not a single person – abuse them, that no one might keep them from coming to Jesus.”
“Any person – be they a religious, lay person, bishop, or any person – who prevents a child from coming to Jesus must be stopped in his attitudes, corrected if we are in time, or punished if there is a crime involved,” he added.
‘Apostolate of prevention’
Pope Francis also drew what he said was an admittedly rough comparison with drug abuse.
When a person has fallen into drug addiction, the Pope said, it takes extreme amounts of personal energy to get out of that situation. Prevention, on the other hand, is more effective and requires less effort.
Pope Francis said the core question examined by the protection of minors course is how to prevent children from being abused.
The answer, he said, is to carry out an “apostolate of prevention”.
Prevention is important, he insisted, “because we never know where a child will be abused.”
Protection of Minors course
The protection of minors course has seen participants meet with victims of sexual abuse, listen to their stories, and learn from them.
Those taking part are Catholics in leadership positions in the Church, including vicars general of religious congregations and dioceses, seminary formators, and psychologists.
Fr. Daniel Portillo, the Director of CEPROME (Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Formation for the Protection of Minors) which organized the 1-26 July course, told ACI Prensa that the Pope’s message came as an encouragement during the most intense part of the initiative.
“If intervention does not go hand in hand with prevention,” noted Fr. Portillo, “things cannot work with the proper clarity needed to advance a safety code for the protection of our children.”