Apóstoles de la Prevención

Posted On 2023-03-19 In Abuses

Onward, Apostles of Prevention

PARAGUAY, II Congress of the Latin American Centre for the Protection of Minors, press release

“I am among you, because the first step of this penitential pilgrimage is to renew my plea for forgiveness and to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am deeply hurt. I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil that some priests, many of them, have done. Because of the sexual abuse of children, and in the face of this outrageous evil, the Church kneels before God and begs forgiveness for the sins of its children. The Church is aware of this damage and we will not take a step back. You are called Apostles of Prevention. Preventing is an act of love, go ahead! —

With this strong message of support from the Pope, shared through a video, to all the members of the Latin American Child Protection Centre, and shared with the more than 400 participants from more than 20 countries in Latin America and Europe, the II Congress of this international organization, which began last Tuesday 14th in the capital of Paraguay, came to an end.

Apóstoles de la Prevención

The importance of prevention in the Church

The event, which was based on the principles of serving, informing and communicating, also began with the reading of the message of the Pope, who asked for the protection of victims of abuse in the Church to be a priority. Also with the affirmation of the Paraguayan Cardinal Adalberto Martinez, about the need for the Church to acknowledge that it has not acted promptly, responsibly and needs to ask for forgiveness. Bishop Francisco Javier Pistilli, Bishop of Encarnación and Chancellor of the Catholic University of Our Lady of the Assumption, recalled the importance of prevention in the Church, especially in the university environment.

Dr. Daniel Portillo Trevizo, Director of the Latin American Ceprome, said that the dignity of children and adolescents and the actions to respect it, in the Church, requires a commitment to the creation of an adequate culture of care that is able to ensure the safety of children.

Apóstoles de la Prevención

F. Daniel Portillo

The importance of a ministry of care

During this meeting, various specialists in different subjects analyzed, reflected and debated on the role of the Church in the face of child abuse in its institutions. The importance of a care ministry. Also the duty to inform, transparency in communicating, and especially to shelter the victims, the survivors of abuse, because none of them is justifiable, but they are preventable. Hence the name “Apostles of Prevention”.

One of them was Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, USA and advisor to Pope Francis, who said that in the Church there are signs of deep sin, crime and guilt, of life-threatening diseases and of obvious human and institutional failure and, at the same time, there are people who recognise the guilt and who work for fundamental changes.

For him, prevention in the Church in Latin America is more than the implementation of a Code of Conduct, a Prevention Protocol or an action route that focuses on sexual behavior. The prevention of abuse is embedded in the wider culture of care and good treatment, which must question our way we relate to one another, how we build community and how we truly live synodality.

O’Malley, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, PCPM, also highlighted the role of Francis, whom he said has become the first Pope in the modern era to take action against one of the greatest evils related to the abuse of minors within the Church: the cover-up.

He also recalled that it was he who created the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and wants it to be a concrete, effective, efficient presence alongside local church authorities who have responsibility for this ministry or service, to address abuse, to prevent, accompany and help those who have been affected by abuse in their search for justice.

Apóstoles de la prevención

“We need the voice of those who have been wounded in their dignity”

During his dissertation, Presbyter Dr. Daniel Portillo Trevizo, Director of the Center for the Protection of Minors, Latin American Ceprome considered that the series of transgressive acts are for the Church, a painful learning, which evidences the forgetfulness of the Gospel and the fact that it was not able to glimpse the risk, nor listen to the cry of the victims. The Church must acknowledge with regret its negligence, examine its closeness in the most tragic human situations, assess whether its current mission in the world protects its faithful or, on the contrary, is passive in the face of acts of injustice to human dignity. For him, abuses have not come to kill the Church, but to kill that which is not properly the Church’s own. He concluded by assuring that prevention is the most formidable, universal and mysterious force, engraved in the heart of man, capable of transforming the world.

Dr. Hans Zollner, a Jesuit priest, theologian and psychologist, professor at the Gregorian University, affirmed that to better understand “we need the voice of those who have been wounded in their dignity and who do not experience the attention and mercy they rightly expect from the Church.” And he shared an image of the meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors with Pope Francis. It was the work of a crucified Christ weeping, but inside a tree with leaves that symbolized life, hope. A work sent by a survivor to Pope Francis.

Theologian Zollner recalled that the victims of abuse want to see in the Church an attitude of empathy, closeness, “to be open with the hearts and not only with the eyes and ears, that is the Church we should be”.

Fr. Andrew Small, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, shared the experience of this organism, which is to work directly with victims of abuse, promote training in abuse prevention for leaders of the Catholic Church, and the development of policies and guidelines on abuse prevention.

Dr. Patricia Espinosa, Theologian, Member of the Latin American Council of Ceprome and of the National Council for the Protection of Minors of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, explained the Memorare Program of the Pontifical Commission. And the name “Memorare” because with it they want to include and embrace all those who come as the Virgin Mary does. The document explains that the mission of the Pontifical Commission is to protect children, adolescents and vulnerable persons inside and outside the Church, with a focus on the local Church, to provide ongoing training in the protection of minors and vulnerable persons, to develop codes of conduct and to respond appropriately and in a timely manner to allegations of abuse.

The next Ceprome Latin America Congress in 2024 will be held in Panama.

Apóstoles de la prevención

Cardinals O’Malley and Martínez


Original: Spanish 2023-03-17. Translated by: María Aragón, Monterrey, México

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