By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday urged families, educational and public institutions to tackle with renewed determination the scourge of child abuse, paedophilia and child pornography, describing them as "psychological murder". “Continue your work without hesitation, paying particular attention to the educational aspect, in order to form a firm conscience in people and eradicate the culture of abuse and exploitation,” the Pope told some 50 members of the Meter Association. The group founded in Sicily, Italy, in 1989 by Father Fortunato Di Noto, has been championing the rights of children especially against child pornography and paedophilia.
The Good Samaritan
Thanking all those who support the Association in defending abused and mistreated children, the Pope, who has been an ardent campaigner against child abuse, especially against clerical child abuse in the Church, said Meter members have “contributed to making visible the Church's love for the smallest and most defenceless”. He said they have reached out to children with respect, closeness, compassion and tenderness, to welcome, console and protect them, binding up their “spiritual wounds” like the Good Samaritan.
Pope Francis described Meter Association as a home, a place of welcome, shelter and care with a typical family flavour of warmth, affection and tenderness, especially in times of distress and pain. He said, “You have been and are 'home' for so many children whose innocence has been violated or enslaved by the selfishness of adults.” He encouraged them in their task of giving hope to victims, helping them on the path of liberation and redemption.
The Pope pointed out their work is even more necessary because the abuse of children continues, especially in child pornography on the internet and social media. This scourge, he said, needs to be tackled with renewed determination by public institutions, and families and educators need greater awareness of it.
“Even today,” he pointed out, “we note that the first reaction of many families is to cover up everything.” “It is always there in other institutions, even in the Church,” he said, adding, “we must fight this old habit of covering up”.
Describing child abuse as a kind of "psychological murder", the Holy Father said, in many cases, it is a "cancellation of childhood”. The protection of children against sexual exploitation is a duty of all states, which must identify both traffickers and abusers. He said it is a duty to denounce and prevent child abuse in the various spheres of society, such as in schools, sporting, recreational and cultural institutions, religious communities and by individuals. He also called for specific measures for effective assistance to victims of paedophilia. “Continue your work without hesitation, paying particular attention to the educational aspect, in order to form a firm conscience in people and eradicate the culture of abuse and exploitation.”
Mary, guide for the Association
Commenting on the logo of Meter Association, the Pope said the large letter "M" recalls the idea of a womb, welcome, protection and embracing the little ones. The 12 stars inside are “the symbol of the crown of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and mother of all children”. Mary, he said, is a model and guide for the whole Association, encouraging us to love with evangelical charity the children who are victims of slavery and violence. The Holy Father urged the Association to strengthen this evangelical charity through personal and community prayer, in listening to the Word and above all in the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity and bond of charity.
In conclusion, the Pope urged Meter members, volunteers and cooperators not to be afraid in the face of misunderstandings and difficulties but to go ahead with courage and perseverance.
Spike in online child pornography in 2020
According to the latest report by Meter Association on paedophilia, the pandemic year 2020 has seen a sharp surge in child pornography online. “Pedophilia and child pornography are not afraid of Covid and do not need a vaccine, quite the contrary,” it notes in the report released on March 18. “If in 2020 it was everyone’s turn to stay at home, this meant a golden business for those who rape children and exploit the material produced with these little slaves of modern times. And for now, there seems to be no vaccine against child abuse,” it warns.
Data compiled by Meter’s OS.MO.CO.P. (World Observatory Against Pedophilia) showed online hits on child pornography sites had almost doubled last year from the previous year. In 2020 it showed 14,521 hits against 8,489 in 2019.
The network notes a disconcerting trend that child pornography in video format has more than doubled, from 992,300 in 2019 to 2,032,556 in 2020. “Evidently ‘simple’ photos are no longer enough, pedophiles search and produce more videos to satisfy their unhealthy desires, their perversion finds greater satisfaction in movies,” Meter says.