Pope Francis and 100 bishops meet in Rome

The Church, especially her youth, has suffered greatly from the evil of clerical sexual abuse. In response to this crisis, from February 21-24, Pope Francis called the presidents of Bishops’ Conferences to gather in Rome for a conference addressing the “Protection of Minors in the Church.”

On the first day of the meeting Pope Francis addressed the over 100 bishops present by saying, “I wanted to consult you, Patriarchs, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Religious Superiors and Leaders, so that together we might listen to the Holy Spirit and, in docility to his guidance, hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice.”

The aim of the meeting was to discuss and pray about actions to be taken for the greater protection of youth in the Church, in light of the many sex scandals that have been revealed recently.

The first day of the meeting was themed “Responsibility” where Archbishop Scicluna prayerfully called all the 100 bishops present “to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.”

In press conferences, the moderator of the meeting, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, revealed three concrete initiative that will be taken by the Church to protect her minors. They include: 1.) the production of a set of rules for the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults within Vatican City State, 2.) a rulebook for bishops around the world which lays out their responsibilities to protect minors in their care, and 3.) forming a task force to help Bishops’ Conferences to investigate sex crimes and work to safeguard all minors.

To conclude the meeting, Pope Francis emphatically reminded all those present, and the whole world, of the great evil of clerical sex abuse, by saying “behind this, there is Satan.”

This meeting was also met with some dissatisfaction on the part of many onlookers, who hoped for more concrete measures and actions to be taken by the Vatican to uncover, punish, and prevent perpetrators of clerical sex abuse. Many organizations hope for clearer, more concrete measures on the part of the Vatican to assist those who have suffered and to ensure an end to such crimes in the Church.

Although not all were satisfied with the exact outcomes, it did achieve an important goal of raising awareness and sorrow for the scourge of clerical sex abuse in the world and to pray for an end to such an evil that has taken root in the Church, which is an important step in healing the Church.

Byline:  Mary Benz is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame studying Theology and Pre-Med.  She is passionate about the Catholic Faith, her big family, and being Pro-Life. Contact her at mbenz1@nd.edu.