Today Pope Francis instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, issuing the names of eight members tasked with structuring the future form of the commission.
“Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst her highest priorities. Today, to carry forward this initiative, the Holy Father announces the names of several highly qualified persons who are committed to this issue,” said Fr. Lombardi, the director of the Holy See’s press office, on March 22.
A statement from the Vatican press office noted that the members’ “principal role will be to prepare the Statutes of the Commission, which will define its tasks and competencies. Other members will be added to the Commission in the future, chosen from various geographical areas of the world.”
The eight initial members are comprised of four women and four men, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. Several are university professors and experts in psychology, law, and aiding those victimized by sexual abuse.
Fr. Lombardi noted that these eight will be “participating in the deliberations concerning the Commission’s final structure; describing the scope of its responsibilities; and developing the names of additional candidates, especially from other continents and countries, who can offer service to the Commission.”
The director of the Holy See’s press office also stressed Pope Francis’ desire to carry forward the work begun by his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
“Continuing the work undertaken by his predecessors, and having heard the advice of a number of Cardinals, other members of the College of Bishops, and experts in the field, and having duly deliberated, Pope Francis now is forming a Commission for the safeguarding of minors,” explained Fr. Lombardi.
He went on to highlight the commission’s “multi-pronged approach to promoting youth protection” which will be done in light of “looking to the future without forgetting the past.”
The commission’s approach will include “education regarding the exploitation of children; discipline of offenders; civil and canonical duties and responsibilities; and the development of best practices as they have emerged in society at large.”
Although the creation of the commision was announced in December of 2013, it was unknown who would belong to its membership.
Today’s announcement named Dr. Catherine Bonnet of France; Mrs. Marie Collins of Ireland; Professor and Baroness Sheila Hollins of the U.K.; Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley O.F.M. Cap. of Boston; Professor Claudio Papale of Italy; Professor and former Prime Minister Hanna Suchocak of Poland; Fr. Humberto Miguel Yanez, S.J. of Argentina; and Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J. of Germany.
Fr. Lombardi described the group of five lay persons and three clerics as “called to work expediently” in order to “contribute to the Holy Father’s mission of upholding the sacred responsibility of ensuring the safety of young people.”