6-February-2012 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Can the Church Become a Leader in Protecting Children?

Victim Expresses High Hopes for Symposium on Clergy Sex Abuse

By Ann Schneible

ROME, FEB. 3, 2012 (Zenit.org).- This Monday through Thursday, the Gregorian University will host the international symposium "Towards Healing and Renewal," on the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. One of the greatest hopes is that the symposium will act as a catalyst for developing a culture of listening and healing within the Church.

At a press conference today, some of the speakers discussed the main themes of the conference, and the primary concerns to be addressed.

Marie Collins, a victim of clerical abuse who will give her testimony to the symposium in the coming days, spoke regarding the progress that she hopes Church leaders will make in the protection of children and the pastoral care of victims.

"There is still a huge anger among survivors at the Church and at the Church leadership," she said. "And as we know, there are many, many reasons for this anger. Despite apologies for the actions of the abusers, there have been few apologies for the protection given to them by their superiors."

The choice to give her testimony at this symposium was a very difficult one, with some people expressing their concerns regarding this decision. "I made my decision to accept the invitation to speak, despite these concerns -- although I do have my own questions -- but the overriding consideration, in my mind, is that as many children as possible now, and in the future, are protected from abuse. Nothing, nothing is more important."

"If the Catholic Church can become a leader in child protection, in the world, then it would be a start towards this terrible evil being controlled," she added. "It would restore respect and bring healing to so many of the faithful hurt by crises we have come through in recent years. And my hope is that this symposium will start us on that road."

Learning center

The symposium will be followed by the launch of a multi-institution e-learning center which will run for the next three years -- the Centre for the Protection of Children based in Munich, Germany. Its objective will be to offer the necessary guidance and resources to address allegations of abuse quickly and effectively.

This initiative has the support of several Vatican congregations as well as the secretariat of state and the symposium. Representatives from every continent will address the global concern of safeguarding the vulnerable. Delegates have come from about 110 bishops' conferences, as have the superiors of more than 30 religious orders from around the world.

Following the 2011 circular letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to bishops' conferences requiring all dioceses in the world to develop guidelines within the next year on the handling of all abuse allegations, the symposium will play a significant role in enabling bishops and major religious superiors to move toward creating a consistent global response.

Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, will give the opening address at the symposium conference, and representatives from the CDF have had a very active role in giving shape to Towards Healing and Renewal.

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