By Devin Watkins
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors sent out a press release on Thursday to announce details about the upcoming safeguarding conference.
The event kicks off on Sunday and runs through Wednesday in the Polish capital of Warsaw.
It is being held under the theme, “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children”.
Representatives of Bishops’ Conferences from nearly 20 nations in Central and Eastern Europe will take part, along with professionals who work in the field of child and youth protection.
Systems to prevent abuse
According to the press statement, leaders from local Churches and delegates will examine their response to the crisis of sexual abuse of minors, while evaluating the impact of the regional context on the issue.
Participants will hear experts share their experience regarding “prevention, intervention (reporting abuse and implementation of existing procedures – Vos estis lux mundi), and showcase practices already adopted and in use in other parts of the Church.”
One main goal of the Warsaw conference will be to encourage the exchange of experiences and promote networking among Church representatives engaged in the protection of minors.
Those present will seek to establish better systems to exchange information and share resources “in a dialectic of mutual learning.”
Church leaders across the region
The statement goes on to note that participants will include bishops, superiors of religious communities, and laypeople working in the field.
They hail from Latin- and Greek-rite Catholic Churches, and from nations including Poland, Albania, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Kosovo.
Courage to report clerical sexual abuse
Cardinal Seán O'Malley, President of the Pontifical Commission, said in the communique that the Warsaw conference aims to help local Catholic leaders in safeguarding the most vulnerable.
“Our Commission travels to Warsaw to be with the churches in Central and Eastern Europe, to listen to them, learn about their reality and help them chart a course forward in the protection of children and vulnerable people.”
The Cardinal also recognized the courage of those who have suffered abuse by the clergy.
“It is because of their courage that others can be spared from experiencing this horror,” he said. “There is no place or group of people that is immune to being impacted by this crime and sin. It has tragically infiltrated the Church in all countries and all cultures.”
Cardinal O’Malley called on Church leaders to continue a “journey of learning” which continues throughout life. “Conversion to a culture of safeguarding is an urgent priority,” he said.
Making a fresh start
Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, expressed his joy that Poland is hosting the Warsaw conference for the entire region.
“I hope that this meeting will allow us to look not only at the difficulties we face today, but also to exchange experiences and best practices and that it will mark the beginning of a future collaboration, which will result in common actions in our part of Europe.”
The initiative is the result of the joint efforts of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the Polish Bishops’ Conference, and the St. Joseph Foundation.