Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. The pontiff is asking for prayers for this week’s sex abuse summit at the Vatican, calling abuse an “urgent challenge of our time.” (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Sex abuse survivors to meet with Vatican summit organizers

Pope Francis has urged participants to meet with abuse victims before they came to Rome

The organizers of Pope Francis’ summit on preventing clergy sex abuse will meet this week with a dozen abuse victims who have descended on Rome to protest the Catholic Church’s response to the crisis and demand an end to decades of coverup by church leaders, officials said Monday.

These abuse survivors will not be addressing the summit of church leaders itself. Rather, they will meet Wednesday with the four-member organizing committee to convey their complaints.

The larger summit of some 190 presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world, plus key Vatican officials, begins Thursday.

At a press conference Monday, organizers called the summit a “turning point” in the church’s approach to clergy sex abuse. The Catholic Church has long been criticized for its failure to hold bishops accountable when they covered up for priests who raped and molested children.

They said the summit would focus on three key aspects of dealing with the crisis: making bishops aware of their own responsibilities to protect their flocks, the consequences of shirking those responsibilities, and the need for transparency.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigator and an organizer of the meeting, said transparency was key, since the church’s knee-jerk response of denial and silence in the past had only exacerbated the problem.

“Whether it’s criminal or malicious complicity and a code of silence, or whether it’s denial or trauma in its very primitive state, we need to get away from that,” he told reporters. “We have to face the facts.”

Chilean abuse victim Juan Carlos Cruz, who is co-ordinating the survivor meeting, told The Associated Press he hopes for a “constructive and open dialogue” and for summit members to convey survivors’ demand that bishops stop pleading ignorance about abuse.

“Raping a child or a vulnerable person and abusing them has been wrong since the 1st century, the Middle Ages, and now,” he said.

Francis called the summit in September after he himself discredited Cruz and other Chilean victims of a notorious predator priest. Francis was subsequently implicated in the coverup of Theodore McCarrick, the onetime powerful American cardinal who just last week was defrocked for sexually abusing minors as well as adults.

Francis has urged participants to meet with abuse victims before they came to Rome, to both familiarize themselves with victims’ pain and trauma and debunk the widely held idea that clergy sex abuse only happens in some parts of the world.

READ MORE: Vatican clarifies pope on issue of ‘sexual slavery’ of nuns

READ MORE: Vatican defends pope against ‘blasphemous’ coverup claims

Survivors will be represented at the summit itself, but only in a few key moments of prayer.

Summit moderator the Rev. Federico Lombardi said he would gladly receive any written messages from other survivors, expressing an openness to hear from a broad cross-section of victims.

Cruz said the key message for the bishops to take away from the summit is that they must enforce true “zero tolerance” or face the consequences.

“There are enforceable laws in the church to punish not only those who commit the abuse but those who cover it up,” he told the AP. “No matter what rank they have in the church, they should pay.”

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, another conference organizer, agreed.

“There is going to be every effort to close whatever loopholes there are, to make sure that people understand on an individual basis as bishops what their responsibilities are,” he said. “Because they are going to be held accountable.”

Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Lacombe Police Service arrests two in possession of stolen property, cocaine, meth

LPS notified of a stolen trailer stolen from the Lacombe area for sale on a local sales site.

Lacombe Police Services arrests car thief in possession of meth

Red Deer woman’s outstanding warrants lead to arrest

Lacombe Police Service warns of gold/jewelry scammers

The gold/jewelry presented turns out to be fake

New assistant principal at Blackfalds’ Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus

Lacey Elliott has been a teacher at Ponoka Secondary Campus since 2008

VIDEO: LCHS Hair Massacure supports children’s charities

Event supports kids living with cancer

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

Federal government funds millions to help B.C. police spot drugged driving

Many police departments have expressed wariness about using the only government-approved roadside test

Judge: Mississippi 6-week abortion ban ‘smacks of defiance’

The new law would prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected

Justin Trudeau credits immigration for Canada’s growing tech sector

Trudeau stressed that Canada has become a major source of talent for tech all over the world

Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

The fund is supposed to back experiences that show off Canada’s strengths

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several days, but grew substantially Sunday

Most Read