In 2017, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in collaboration with the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University, hosted a global seminar on safeguarding and education, with a particular focus on Latin America.
Guest speakers from Argentina, Colombia and Mexico were joined by experts from Australia and Italy to share their experience of promoting a culture of safeguarding in Catholic schools, institutions and communities.
A round table discussion with the participation of experts from the Pontifical Gregorian University; the Pontifical Salesian University; and the Pontifical Faculty for Education Science Auxilium addressed the urgent need for research in this area.
Participants also heard from the Under-Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education will also address the seminar and take part in discussions.
Education is key
The Pontifical Commission has identified education as a core element of its work. In every part of the Church – parishes, dioceses, schools, homes, communities, seminaries, religious congregations and the Holy See itself – people need to understand:
- the risks to children and vulnerable adults
- how to recognise the warning signs of abuse
- how to educate children and vulnerable adults to protect themselves and find help when they need it
- how to create safe environments in the church and communities to prevent abuse
The Pontifical Commission is engaged on a wide range of work to promote and support education of Church leaders and all other areas of the Church’s work with children and vulnerable adults.
The education seminar brought together experts from schools, child safeguarding, psychology and education science, as well as practitioners and students, to share and learn from information and experience on what works and what doesn’t. The outcome will form the basis of the Pontifical Commission’s future plans for research and education programmes.
The speakers included:
- Fr Friedrich Bechina, FSO, Undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education
- Kathleen McCormack, Member of the Commission and Chair of the Working Group on Education of Families and Communities
- Mónica Yerena Suárez – Provincia Marista de México Central
- Fr Wilfredo Grajales Rosas, SDB – Director del Instituto Distrital para la Protección de Niños, Niñas, Adolescentes y Jóvenes, Bogotá, Colombia
- Juan Ignacio Fuentes, CONSUDEC Argentina
- Francis Sullivan, CEO, Truth Justice and Healing Commission, Australia
- Dott. Giovanni Ippolito, Direttore Tecnico Capo Psicologo, Questura di Foggia
- Fr Hans Zollner SJ, President, Centre for Child Protection, Pontificia Università Gregoriana and Member of the Commission
- Sr Prof.ssa Giuseppina del Core, Preside, Pontificia Facoltà di Scienze dell’Educazione Auxilium
- Fr Prof Mario Oscar Llanos SDB, Università Pontificia Salesiana
“We can never have enough education”
Kathleen McCormack, the Chair of the Commission’s Working Group on Education in Schools and Families, said:
“In the Church we have volunteers, employees, educators and clergy; and of course we need to reach out to families and children themselves. We want people to understand about how to create safe environments and prevent sexual abuse.”
“We in the Pontifical Commission want to get this debate going, and provide leadership on how we educate all those people who are in different countries and cultures, but are still part of the Universal Church. We want to make sure that all their people who are in their communities or dioceses are fully on board with making the Church a safe place.”