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Cardinal Seán O'Malley (bottom L) takes part in the online plenary assembly Cardinal Seán O'Malley (bottom L) takes part in the online plenary assembly 

Protection of Minors Commission holds plenary assembly

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors holds its 15th ordinary Plenary Assembly in Rome and online from 19-22 April 2021.

The meeting opened with appreciation of Pope Francis’ extension of members’ terms of office for another year, and a warm welcome for Mr. Juan Carlos Cruz, taking part in his first meeting since his appointment by the Pope on 24 March.

Greeting the Commission members, Mr. Cruz said he hoped his presence and contribution will bring renewed impulse to the Church's commitment to hearing, welcoming, assisting and accompanying the children, men and women who have been abused and in creating a space for them in the life of the Church.

A busy 2021

The first quarter of 2021 has provided a series of opportunities for the Commission to work with local churches and safeguarding partners around the world in promoting local responsibility for the protection of children and vulnerable adults in fulfillment of the Commission’s mandate from the Holy Father’s Chirograph of 2014.

Members were active in a number of educational initiatives, academic projects, publications and sponsored events. These included:

-   The publication of the Acts from the 2019 Commission Seminar on “Balancing Confidentiality, Transparency and Accountability, in canonical penal processes” in Italian, Spanish and English. The seminar has since been developed into a diploma course by safeguarding partners El Centro de Protección de Menores (@Ceprome) with great participation in South America; the Acts will also be available soon in Polish;

-   An online course on Safe environments in religious life for superior generals of religious congregations and their delegates offered by the Joint Commission for the Care of the Person, which groups together the International Union of Superiors General, the Union of Superiors General and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors;

-   A three day conference for Church leadership in Brazil titled “Healing Our Own Wounds” organised together with the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference (CNBB) and the Conference of Religious of Brazil (CRB) and the Núcleo Lux Mundi task force;

-   An 8-10 April global Symposium entitled “Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse,” in partnership with Harvard University and the Catholic University of America.

Outstanding initiatives for the remainder of the year include:

-   In June, an academic seminar organised by the Working with Survivors Group on the theme “Enculturation of Outreach and Healing” for people who have been abused, their families and communities. Broken down into three sessions, the seminar will explore the clinical, pastoral and juridical implications of listening to victims and survivors in different cultural contexts, informed by the experiences of victims and survivors drawn from local Survivor Advisory Panels (SAPs).  

-   A September Conference in Warsaw, Poland, for Church Leadership in Central and Eastern Europe, titled “Our Common Mission of safeguarding God’s Children” organised by the Education and Formation Working Group in partnership with the Polish Bishops Conference. Over four days Commission members will meet and dialogue with bishops, religious and lay leaders from Latin and Eastern Rite churches in the region to understand the needs and challenges they face in the promotion of strategies to prevent and heal those wounded by clerical child sexual abuse.

A critical juncture for Safeguarding and the Church

The Plenary Assembly also addressed the realities, challenges, and critical directions for the Commission, Safeguarding, and the Church in light of the many developments in the area since the Commission’s establishment in 2014.

Members did so through a series of constructive meetings with offices of the Roman Curia. The Commission members would like to thank the Prefects, officials and staff at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Dicasteries for Laity, Family and Life and Integral Human Development, and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Members also thank the International Union of Superiors General and the Union of Superiors General, for their continued cooperation and dedication to the wellbeing of all children and vulnerable people.

Also, during the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Commission has set a goal to boost its online presence and visibility and to engage with safeguarding partners committed to promoting child dignity online and contrasting the growing scourge of child online exploitation.

The new www.tutelaminorum.org website and digital platform (@TutelaMinorum) was launched in English in February 2021. Analytics from traffic to the site and feedback from the Tutela Minorum Safeguarding Community help identify strengths and weaknesses in global safeguarding efforts. 

The platform has so far registered highest user traffic and interaction in the Outreach and Safeguarding resource section with peaks in traffic for spiritual and pastoral assistance to victims and survivors of abuse. The roll out in Spanish and Italian is scheduled for late Spring 2021.

The 15th ordinary plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors concluded an expression of profound appreciation for the work and dedication of the outgoing Secretary Mons. Robert Oliver, who returns to the United States later this year after a decade of service to the Church in the Holy See.

(This article was originally published on the website of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.)

23 April 2021, 16:03