Major conference on clerical abuse announced in Rome
By David Kerr

.- Organizers revealed new details about an international conference on clerical sex abuse slated for February of next year in Rome.

“We want to share the best practices” in combating the issue, Fr. Hans Zollner S.J., Head of the Preparatory Committee of the Symposium, told CNA on June 18.

“So we’ve invited speakers who are experts in the field of working with victims and also those who are experts in understanding the psychology of perpetrators.” 

The “Towards Healing and Renewal Symposium” will take place February 6-9, 2012, at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome.

The conference will invite over 200 representatives from bishops’ conferences and major religious orders around the world.

It is hoped the gathering in Rome will assist them in drawing up new guidelines to deal with the issue of clerical abuse – a requirement recently imposed by the Vatican upon church bodies who don’t yet have such charters. 

“We have to now put in action what the Pope has repeatedly asked for,” said Fr. Zollner, “that is to develop guidelines on how to deal with the issue of abuse in the Church.”

The three-day conference will hear from experts drawn from various fields - including psychology, canon law, moral theology and sociology – and also from around the globe. 

Baroness Sheila Hollins, who is Professor of Psychiatry at St. George’s University in London, England, helped announce the conference on June 18.

“My talk at the symposium will be jointly shared by a victim of abuse. The person who is going to accompany me - and we’ll do a joint presentation - is somebody who has agreed to come but is not ready today to disclose her name and photograph.”

Also taking part will be Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who is the Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor.

“The symposium that was announced today organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University intends to put the word 'formation' into the equation of responding to sex abuse by clergy,” he told CNA.

“That will help with prevention, with an adequate response to sexual abuse when it happens, and with formation of the local communities – family, young people and also Church leaders.” 

A key legacy of the conference will be the establishment of an online educational resource called an “E-Center.”
“The E-Center will be a multilingual website that provides the most current information and resources on sexual abuse for Church leaders, not only for bishops and religious superiors, but also for Church leaders of dioceses,” said Monsignor Klaus Peter Franzl of the Archdiocese of Munich at Saturday’s press conference.

The most importantly factor at the conference though, says Msgr. Sciclula, will be the voice of the victims.

“That is a voice that we need to hear. It is a voice that has been silent for quite some time but we need to hear from victims because we need to learn the effects of sin, delicts and crimes.”

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