Pope Francis greets bishops during his weekly audience at St Peter’s Square on October 8, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Franco Origlia/Getty)
(Vatican News) Pope Francis, following the recitation of the Angelus prayer on Sunday, 17 February, focused his attention on “the protection of minors in the Church” meeting, to be held in the Vatican from 21 to 24 February 2019.
The Pope said that all the Presidents of all the Episcopal Conferences would be there and he invited those present in St Peter’s Square to pray for the meeting, which the Pontiff said, he wanted “as an act of strong pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge of our time.”
The February Meeting will include plenary sessions, working groups, moments of common prayer, listening to testimonies, a penitential liturgy, and a final Eucharistic celebration.
Pope Francis will be present for the entire duration of the Meeting, and has entrusted Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, with the task of moderating the Plenary sessions.
According to an earlier communication from the Holy See Press Office regarding the upcoming summit: “the goal is that all of the Bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.”
The meeting will include a penitential liturgy February 23rd and a closing Mass February 24th.
Bishop of Macau Stephen Lee is among those invited to participate in the summit.
Fabio Colagrande also reported in Vatican News that “the meeting is the first to involve all the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences and those responsible for religious orders worldwide.” He added that it “has unprecedented ‘synodal’ characteristics and is the first to address the issue of abuse from a Gospel perspective. The Meeting also shows how, in the present historical context, the fight against the scourge of abuse committed by members of the clergy, is a priority for Pope Francis. Listening to victims, raising awareness, increasing knowledge, developing new norms and procedures, sharing good practices: these are some of the objectives of the Meeting.”
Colagrande clarified that “the Meeting is not the first step taken in this direction by the Holy See, or by Episcopal Conferences. It is an historic stage in a journey undertaken by the Catholic Church for over thirty years, in countries like Canada, the United States, Ireland and Australia, and for the past ten years in Europe. This journey will continue after the Vatican Meeting.”
He noted that “The renewal of canonical norms for cases of abuse of minors by members of the clergy, began in the Vatican eighteen years ago. Over the last twenty years, the Popes have dedicated countless gestures, speeches and documents to this painful subject. The publication of norms and protocols has not always produced the change of mentality necessary to combat abuse.”