Thank you for keeping me in your prayers during the recent Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church, convened by the Holy Father in Rome. Your support gave me great hope and encouragement, and I would like to provide you with an update on what was accomplished and our next critical steps.
This meeting set the direction of the entire global Church on the question of child safety. Our firm resolve and the actions we will take are a direct result of hearing the testimony of victims/survivors throughout the meeting. Their unflinching witness moved the hearts of the participants and the world and led us to recommit to a common mission of making the Church a safe place for all, achieved by taking personal responsibility, holding bishops accountable, and practicing transparency.
The nine talks over three days were given by presenters approved by the Holy Father. Each of the speakers pointed out the failures of bishops to act responsibly and described the damage done by their lack of accountability and transparency. Pope Francis built on what was said in the various talks by making it clear at the end of the Mass on Sunday that the Church’s agenda in protecting children must be proactive not reactive or defensive. He insisted that the Church will spare no effort to hold abusers accountable and will not tolerate cover-ups.
The all-out effort for which the pope has called will continue to build over time and will be marked by a commitment to ongoing learning and improving, particularly by listening to victims/survivors of abuse.
Four concrete steps were announced at the end of the meeting.
- The imminent publication of a motu proprio by the pope, providing rules and regulations to safeguard minors and vulnerable adults within the Vatican City State;
- The distribution of a “vademecum” (or rulebook) to bishops around the world, standardizing guidelines so church leaders everywhere take on this task in a united way and explaining their juridical and pastoral duties and responsibilities regarding protecting children;
- Recognizing that the global Church is marked by great culture diversity and unique regional challenges, task forces of competent experts that are culturally sensitive and regionally representative will be organized to assist bishops’ conferences that may lack the necessary resources or expertise to fully address the issue of safeguarding minors and dealing with abuse;
- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is responsible for approving the norms of each bishops’ conference.
With this letter, I invite you to view the major talks, prayer services with testimonies of victims/survivors, the penitential ceremony and Mass, all of which were streamed live so the entire world could follow this event. The videos and talks are posted on the Vatican’s dedicated website at pbc2019.org.
You can be sure of a place in my prayers, and I ask that you keep victims/survivors, our Church, and our community in yours.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Chicago