Press Information

Background on the Meeting on the Protection of Minors

Timeline of press releases

12 September 2018   
Council of Cardinals announces that Pope Francis decided to convoke a meeting with the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences on the theme “the protection of minors”

23 November 2018    
Pope Francis designates members of the Organizing Committee and the participants

18 December 2018    
Announcement of the letter of invitation sent to participants with request to meet with survivors

16 January 2019        
Communication regarding the plans for the upcoming meeting, and the information that Fr Federico Lombardi, S.J., will moderate the plenary sessions

Questions & Answers

The Pope explained his intention very well on the return flight from Panama. He wants to help the bishops clearly understand what they must do. It was in this sense that he spoke of a “catechesis”. This “catechesis” will begin through the presidents of the episcopal conferences.

Firstly, he wants them to become aware of the tragedy, of the suffering of the victims. Out of this will arise a strong sense of responsibility on the part of individual bishops, on the part of the bishops as a whole, and on the part of the wider community, that is, the Church.

Secondly, he wants them to know what they need to do: what the procedures are, what tasks need to be accomplished at various levels (diocesan bishop, archdiocesan bishop, episcopal conference, Vatican dicasteries). This will lead to mutual accountability of the responsibilities and tasks that each has in relation to other bishops in the Church, and in society.

This presupposes “transparency” regarding tasks, procedures, and the way in which they are accomplished.

In this way, the Church’s credibility and people’s ability to trust the Church might be recuperated.

  • The Pope will be present throughout.
  • The Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences: 114 in total:
    •  36 from Africa
    • 24 from North and South America
    • 18 from Asia
    • 32 from Europe
    • 4 from Oceania
  • 14 leaders of the Oriental Catholic Churches
  • 15 Ordinaries who do not belong to an Episcopal Conference
  • 12 Superiors General of men religious
  • 10 Superiors General of women religious
  • 10 Prefects of Vatican dicasteries
  • 4 Members of the Roman Curia
  • 5 Members of the Council of Cardinals
  • 5 Organizers, Moderator and Speakers
  • Total: 190
  • For a list of Participants, click here.

The announcement of the meeting happened during a meeting of the Council of Cardinals last 12 September. At the end of November, the Pope appointed an Organizing Committee consisting of 4 people: Cardinal Blase Cupich, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Father Hans Zollner SJ, in collaboration with Gabriella Gambino and Linda Ghisoni, from the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. In December, the Organizing Committee sent a letter to the participants. Accompanying the letter were a questionnaire with a deadline for the end of January and an invitation that each participant meet with a few victims/survivors of sexual abuse on the part of members of the clergy.

The number of responses received from the questionnaire is very high (almost 90%) and is a rich source of information. Since most of the questions were open-ended, it will take time to evaluate the responses. The information will be helpful in understanding specific approaches to the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy in different cultures. This will be the subject of ongoing study after the Meeting.

The fundamental elements of the Meeting are: prayer and listening; presentations and questions; group work; conclusions by the Pope.

  • Prayer: There will be moments of prayer at the beginning and at the end of each working day of the Meeting. There will be a Penitential Liturgy on Saturday afternoon, and a concelebrated Sunday liturgy.
  • Presentations: There will be nine presentations: 3 per day. Two will be in the morning and one in the afternoon. All will be followed by a question and answer period.
  • Group work: There will be two times for group work per day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  • Pope Francis: The Pope will speak at the beginning. Then, should he wish, he will do so at the conclusion of the day. He will pronounce a concluding discourse on Sunday morning.

Please click here to access the Program.

Each of the three days has a theme: 1) Responsibility, 2) Accountability, 3) Transparency.

Each of these themes will be articulated in three presentations. Each presentation will focus on the theme as it relates to: the person of the bishop and his responsibilities; the relationship of a bishop with other bishops; the relationship of the bishops with the People of God and society.

The presenters were chosen so that a variety of continents, cultures and situations in the Church could be represented.

Please click here to access a list of the presentations and the presenters.

There will be a brief time for questions and answers at the end of each presentation. Then the participants will meet in their language groups to discuss the presentation(s). Each group will formulate a brief summary of their discussion to be shared with the assembly in the evening.

Listening to those who have suffered from clerical sexual abuse as minors and understanding that suffering is the necessary point of departure for any serious commitment to combat sexual abuse. Their testimony, therefore, is also included in this Meeting. However, such listening requires adequate time, which is very limited during the Meeting.

Having said this, the primary listening to the victims/survivors is that requested of the participants during the preparation for this Meeting. They were asked to do this so that they might become aware of the gravity of the problem that exists in their own territories.

During the actual Meeting, there are 2 moments which include victim/survivor testimonies: a video containing testimonies from victims/survivors at the beginning of the Meeting; during each of the evening prayer times, one victim/survivor will provide a testimony.

In addition, the Meeting intends to promote an awareness that an ongoing need to listen to victims is necessary.

A final document is not foreseen. The conclusion, within the context of the Meeting, will be the Holy Father’s discourse after the closing liturgy on Sunday Morning.