Ahead of the first anniversary of Pope Francis convening Church leaders from across the globe in the interest of protecting minors, Veritas, the publishing house of the Irish Episcopal Conference, has produced the keynote addresses from this gathering. Included in this publication, entitled Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church: Responsibility, Accountability and Transparency, are testimonies of survivors of abuse as well as the widely discussed concluding speech of Pope Francis who was present throughout the four-day meeting which took place from 21 to 24 February 2019.
Writing in the foreword, Primate of All Ireland and President of the Irish Episcopal Conference Archbishop Eamon Martin – appointed as recorder/reporter to one of the English language groups of the meeting – states that, for the 190 participants, the event “was a moment of great importance for the Universal Church in continuing to address the evil of the abuse of minors, as well as the legacy arising from the mishandling of these cases by Church authorities.”
Archbishop Martin recounted his open message to survivors of abuse in Ireland, issued before he travelled to Rome last February, and which highlights the courage of survivors, the evil and devastation of abuse, and the insight that he has gained. Regarding last year’s meeting, he reflected that it “balanced prayer with input, testimony of survivors, penitential acts and liturgies. Responsibility, accountability and transparency were the daily themes of the gathering.” He continued, “the moving testimonies of victims and survivors echoed through the entire meeting. Delegates had been asked to meet with survivors before attending the gathering in Rome. I met personally with around twenty-five survivors in preparation for the meeting, mostly over four days in the four provinces [of Ireland].”
The Irish Primate continued, “Although each country’s cultural and ecclesial context is distinct and unique, it must always be recognised that the abuse of children and vulnerable members of our flocks is a global issue which is universally repugnant to the People of God and fully deserving of our very best efforts with prevention and response.”.
In conclusion, Archbishop Martin cites Pope Francis from his final address to the Rome gathering,
‘The best results and the most effective resolution that we can offer to the victims, to the People of Holy Mother Church and to the entire world, are the commitment to personal and collective conversion, the humility of learning, listening, assisting and protecting the most vulnerable. I make a heartfelt appeal for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors both sexually and in other areas, on the part of all authorities and individuals, for we are dealing with abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth: this is demanded by all the many victims hidden in families and in the various settings of our societies.’