Early next month, Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University will be hosting a symposium “to promote a consistent, global response by the Church that protects the weakest and invites creative leadership for our Church communities”. It is a direct response to last year’s circular letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which called for the development of “procedures suitable for assisting the victims of such abuse, and also for educating the ecclesial community concerning the protection of minors” in the entire world Church.
On a website (which is currently still undergoing development), the rector of the Gregorian, Fr. François-Xavier Dumortier, S.J. present the symposium, titled “Towards Healing and Renewal: A Symposium for Bishops and Religious Superiors on Sexual Abuse”. Reflecting the significance of this symposium, which can be considered a first concrete effort to unify the Church’s worldwide response to the abuse crisis, is perhaps the list of speakers, among them Cardinal William Levada and Msgr. Charles Scicluna.
From the press release:
“Towards Healing and Renewal is being offered by the Gregorian University in Rome and consists of a major symposium followed by the launch of a multi-institution e-learning centre which will run for the next three years – the Center for the Protection of Children based in Munich, Germany. Delegates for the symposium will come from 110 Bishops’ Conferences and also be superiors of 30 Religious Orders, making this a truly international gathering focusing on safeguarding by the Catholic Church.
This initiative has the support of several Vatican Congregations as well as the Secretary of State and the symposium, which will run from February 6-9, will have speakers from all continents in recognition of the global nature of safeguarding the vulnerable. The speakers include the testimony of a victim of abuse, who will address the delegates about the need for victims to be heard and how to effect positive change.”
The website linked to above offers a clear picture of the symposium’s goals and purpose: to allow the participants and those they represent to learn how to handle all the facets of the ongoing abuse crisis. Notably, there will also be a voice for the victims, with little doubt one of the most important voices in this situation.
As Rector Dumortier writes in the final paragraph of his introduction: “Let us keep in prayer the participants in the Symposium, the presenters, but most especially all those who have been impacted in some way or form by sexual abuse within our Church and society.”