Vatican plans for a safeguarding summit of heads of bishops’ conferences marks an important recognition that abuse is an issue for the whole Church, and not something restricted to specific countries, leading campaigner Marie Collins has said.
Pope Francis announced the unprecedented gathering last week, calling the Church’s first ever global meeting of bishops on the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.
The summit, which will take place in Rome over February 21-24, was announced following discussions between the Pope and his Council of Cardinal Advisers.
“The positive side of it is that it indicates that the Pope and Vatican now are looking on this as a global issue, rather than just an issue in certain countries,” Mrs Collins told The Irish Catholic.
“Bringing all the bishops’ conferences together from around the world indicates concern for every country, not just the ones where the issue has come to the fore, and that’s a good move forward.”
Mrs Collins said the Vatican has hitherto been reluctant to deal with it other than as localised phenomena, but that the summit offers a real chance to change that.
“I would hope that it will be an opportunity, obviously, to ensure that every bishops’ conference is on the same page, and is committed to child safeguarding and to zero tolerance, and that at this meeting that will be made very clear to them. I would like to see them sign up to that,” she said, adding that another good move would be for the bishops’ conference presidents to bring their conference safeguarding policies with them, with a view to the Vatican publishing them.
At the same time, Mrs Collins expressed concern that the summit will not live up to its potential.
“On the downside it’s five months away, it could end up to be just another talking shop where various opinions on the need for protection of minors will be discussed,” she said.
“I hope it just doesn’t end up being a lot of talk and nothing concrete coming out of it in the way of action. It’s an opportunity – it looks good, and it looks positive, but we’ve had positive signs before that have not come to anything,” she said.