The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has had seven full days of meetings in Rome. Meetings of the six Working Groups focused on updates for current projects, and developing and drafting proposals. Outside collaborators who assisted the Working Groups included the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and an expert in Penal Canon Law. Draft proposals were presented to the Plenary Assembly for further discussion and decision about policies to propose to the Holy Father. Policies endeavor to recognize the diversity of information and guidance currently available to the Church around the world.
Examples of proposals being finalized for Pope Francis’ consideration include: a request for him to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them; the finalization of a Universal Day of Prayer and a penitential liturgy.
Workshops on the legal aspects of the Protection of Minors to establish more transparency around canonical trials, with participation of external collaborators, are planned for later in the year and a report and recommendations will be provided at the next Plenary Assembly. A website is also being developed to share Best Practice for the Protection of Minors around the world.
In order to fulfill the mission of the Holy Father’s Chirograph for the Institution of the Commission to promote local responsibility, Commission members are actively in contact with numerous Bishops Conferences, and members of the Commission have presented to Religious Conferences and Congregations on safeguarding minors.
Over the past year or so, Commission members have met with Bishops and child protection authorities in: Philippines, Austria, Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Poland, Central America (in Costa Rica), United States National Safe Environment (SECs) and Victims Assistance Coordinators (VACs). As an outcome of the workshop conducted by members of the Commission last August in the Philippines, the Philippine Bishops’ Conference created a child safeguarding office and Pastoral Exhortation on the pastoral care and protection of minors.
A meeting is planned in March in Ghana with Secretaries General of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and a second meeting with child protection practitioners drawn from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in Tanzania. Commission members are also attending the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference in Rome and the United States National Safe Environment and Victims Assistance Coordinators 2016. In 2017 the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) has requested a workshop with Commission members.
The Commission likewise welcomes the recent announcement that in a week’s time the first course offering a diploma in the Safeguarding of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University will start with 19 participants from four continents: Africa, Europe, America and Asia.
The September 2016 meeting of the Commission will have a strategic focus on safeguarding minors in Catholic schools, and will invite contributions from experts in Latin America, England and Wales.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was created by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”