“Its task is to provide the Roman Pontiff with advice and counsel, and to propose the most appropriate initiatives for the protection of minors and vulnerable persons,” according to the apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium (“Preach the Gospel”), which goes into effect in June.
In his speech to the commission, Pope Francis underlined that “abuse in any form is unacceptable.”
“The path to healing is a long and difficult one; it requires firm hope, hope in Christ who went to the Cross and even beyond the Cross,” he said.
“The risen Jesus bears, and will always bear, the marks of his Crucifixion on his glorified body. Those wounds tell us that God saves us not by passing over our sufferings but by passing through those sufferings, transforming them by the power of his love.”
“The healing power of the Holy Spirit does not disappoint; God’s promise of new life does not fail. We need but have faith in the risen Jesus and repose our lives in the wounds of his risen body.”
The pope urged the commission to assist bishops’ conferences in establishing centers where people who have experienced abuse can find “acceptance and an attentive hearing, and be accompanied in a process of healing and justice, as indicated in the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.”
Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”) was issued by the pope following the Vatican’s abuse summit in 2019 after the Theodore McCarrick scandal became public.
The legislation presented a canonical plan to address the investigation of bishops accused of sexual abuse or coercion, or of interfering in the investigation of such conduct.
After the audience, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the president of the commission for the protection of minors, said: “The Holy Father wants us to ensure that survivors receive a welcome and an open door when they appeal to the local church in their country.”
“Outreach to survivors needs to be a priority for every part of the church. We will be working on establishing survivor support services at the level of each national church according to the instructions found in Vos estis lux mundi.”
Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse in Chile and a member of the pontifical commission, said he believed that the annual report was a good development because it would not only be a report on the bishops’ conferences around the world but also on the different dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
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“So this mandate that we now have in this annual report … I think it’s something that is encouraging,” Cruz said.
“I thank the Holy Father for that because … I’ve heard people in the Curia, with all due respect, say, ‘Isn’t it enough? Haven’t we done enough already? Poor priests. Poor bishops.’ No.”
“We’re going to follow up till the bitter end,” he said.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.