By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
From 16-18 September, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors held a plenary session with some participating in person in Rome and others participating online. This Commission was established by Pope Francis in March 2014. On Friday on the conclusion of their meetings, the Commission published a Press Release summarizing their work.
Since much of the work of the Commission migrated online as the world copes with Covid-19, the plenary gave them the opportunity of evaluating their online “outreach, study, research and education programs”.
Work with survivors
The Commission’s Working with Survivors group has been holding virtual meetings directly with abuse survivors, members of their family and professionals. They will put what they learned to use into creating a series of “webinars and seminars on ministry to those who have been abused taking into account diverse cultural contexts.”
In Brazil, a local Survivor Advisory Panels, part of a pilot project, provided the impetus for the opening of “an office to help as a task force for the Special Safeguarding Commission as it implements Vos estis lux mundi.”
Education and Formation
A series of webinars entitled “Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable People during Covid-19”, hosted by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in collaboration with the Commission, the Centre for Child Protection and an Italian hotline for victims of abuse took place over the summer months. Feedback from those who attended the webinars shows a desire for “further online formation in practical matters of safeguarding, and the Commission intends to continue offering such online formation programs in the immediate future.”
The Commission’s Press Release also mentions that they welcome the creation of the Commission for Care and Protection undertaken by the UISG and their male counterpart, the Union of Superiors General.
Safeguiding Guidelines and Norms
A collection of the studies contributed during a webinar sponsored by the Commission’s Safeguarding Guidelines and Norms group will soon be published in Periodica, the Canon Law journal published by the Pontifical Gregorian University. Contributors include members of various Vatican Dicasteries, and Canon Law experts from around the world. The topic under discussion is the “sacrament of reconciliation, canonical processes and matters of jurisprudence.”
Lastly, the Commission’s Press Release acknowledges the 16 July publication of the Vademecum by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Commission sees it as a contribution to “strengthening the administration of justice and better clarifies how those who have been abused are to be heard.” They added that members of the Commission are studying ways it can be implemented at the local church level and within religious institutes.