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  • John Thavis

Pope Francis asks bishops for their 'complete cooperation' with Vatican sex abuse commission

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Pope Francis has written to the world’s bishops and the heads of religious orders, urging them to take “whatever steps are necessary” to protect children from sexual abuse by clerics and provide psychological and spiritual assistance to victims.

Families need to know the church is “making every effort to protect their children,” the pope said.

“Consequently, priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse children,” he said.

The letter was released Thursday at the Vatican, the day before the start of a three-day meeting of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, which the pope established in 2013. The pope recently added new members to the commission, which includes two sex abuse victims.

Francis asked bishops and religious superiors to give their full cooperation with the Vatican commission, especially in exchanging best practices and developing programs of education, training and response to sexual abuse.

He also insisted on full compliance with a 2011 Vatican document that called on bishops’ conferences around the world to draw up guidelines for handling sexual abuse of minors by clerics. Once norms are established, he added, the conferences should establish practical means to guarantee that they are being followed.

The pope said his meeting with sex abuse victims at the Vatican last summer had deeply moved him and left him even more convinced that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.”

He called specifically on bishops and superiors of religious orders to establish programs that provide psychological assistance and spiritual care to victims. He said pastors should be available to meet with victims and their loved ones.

“Such meetings are valuable opportunities for listening to those who have greatly suffered and for asking their forgiveness,” he said.

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