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From February 21st through the 24th, presidents and other representatives from nearly 130 bishops’ conferences around the world gathered at the Vatican in Rome for a summit on Catholic clergy sexual abuse. Pope Francis attended, and the goal was to create a new solution to the abuse.

It’s believed that the summit was scheduled in response to the growing outrage about clergy abuse, which escalated after the Pennsylvania grand jury released their report on over 300 priests accused of sexually abusing minors in six of the state’s dioceses.

Some Survivors Scheduled to Attend Summit

Pope Francis called for the summit back in September 2018, on the theme of “protection of minors.” Holy See spokeswoman Paloma Garcia Ovejero stated the meeting would be on the “prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.”

Though the expectations of this summit were high, the Church called the media coverage excessive. Many survivors are tired of waiting for justice, however, and for change, and are understandably eager to hear that the church plans improvements on how it handles abuse claims.

Some survivors were invited to attend the summit, as were representatives of men’s and women’s religious orders and specialists on sexual abuse. Pope Francis asked all heads of bishops’ conferences to meet with survivors prior to the summit as a “way of ensuring that victim-survivors of clerical abuse are first and foremost in the minds of all at the February gathering…”

The summit was divided into three days with three different themes: responsibility, accountability, and transparency. The goal was to identify possible solutions to the crisis and to emphasize its global nature. Other activities included prayer, penitential liturgy, and a closing Mass, as well as meetings of pastors who listened to survivor testimonies.

What was the Goal of the 3-Day Catholic Church Abuse Summit?

As to what actions may come out of this meeting, it’s unclear at this point. Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a professor of psychology and president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome stated in an interview that though the pastors are to listen, be informed, and realize their responsibility in dealing with the crisis, it is unlikely that the three-day meeting will result in decisions on complex canon law issues.

He added that the meeting is “one important step of our long journey in response to the grave problem of clerical sexual abuse.”

In a January 16 statement, Alessandro Gisotti, the interim director of the Holy See Press Office, stated that the goal of the summit was for all bishops to “clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.” He added that the Pope wanted all those who attended the meeting to return to their dioceses with a greater understanding of the laws that need to be applied and to take the necessary steps to care for the victims and ensure transparency in the future.

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