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Rome conference aims to improve pastoral response to sex abuse crisis

ROME (CNS): Representatives of most of the world’s bishops’ conferences and 30 religious congregations will meet at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, from February 6 to 9 to launch a global initiative to improve efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and better protect children and vulnerable adults. 

Themed, Toward Healing and Renewal, the conference is backed by the Vatican Secretariat of State and several other Vatican offices. 

William Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will give the opening address. Other speakers include a victim of abuse; mental health professionals who have worked in the areas of prevention and treatment; as well as bishops from different parts of the world who will talk about responses to the abuse crisis in their countries. 

The conference is designed, in part, to help bishops’ conferences and superiors of religious congregations respond to a 2011 circular from the doctrinal congregation requiring all dioceses to develop guidelines on handling allegations of abuse.

The Gregorian University and other institutions will also launch an online e-learning resource—the Centre for the Protection of Children—which will be in five languages. It is meant to help Church leaders respond pastorally to the issue of sexual abuse and has funding for an initial three-year period. 

Conference workshops include one designed for those who are not bishops or priests, “to reflect upon and bring forward perspectives that can often be missed by ordained leaders, due to their particular role within the Church.”  

Other workshops will focus on the Internet and pornography, protecting vulnerable adults, best regional practices and the financial cost of the abuse crisis, which the programme says has already reached “more than US$2 billion ($15.5 billion) in legal expenses.” 

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