The News Minute | February 6, 2015 | 08:59 am IST
Vatican City: Pope Francis has urged Catholic bishops to ensure the safety of children in parishes, which should be "safe and secure homes" for families, and reminded them that "there is absolutely no place in the ministry for those who abuse minors".
The Pope's request was part of a letter released Thursday by the Holy See, but which had been sent Monday to the chairmen of episcopal conferences and other senior Church officials.
"It is the responsibility of Diocesan Bishops and Major Superiors to ascertain that the safety of minors and vulnerable adults is assured in parishes and other Church institutions," he said in the letter.
Additionally, the Argentine pontiff called on dioceses to establish programmes of pastoral care for victims of child abuse, "which include provisions for psychological assistance and spiritual care".
"Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children. They should also know they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home," he noted.
"Consequently," he added, "priority must not be given to any other concern, of whatever nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors."
For these reasons, the Pope asked for full and careful collaboration with the Commission for the Protection of Minors, that is set to meet from Friday until Sunday.
"The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your Conferences through an exchange of best practices and through program of education, training, and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse," he said.
The pontiff has undertaken several initiatives to combat paedophilia scandals in the Church.
Shortly after he started his term in March 2013, Pope Francis set up the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors with the aim of providing "proposals and initiatives intended to improve the norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults".
The committee is chaired by US Cardinal Sean O'Malley and consists of 17 members, two of whom had themselves been abused as children by priests: Marie Collins of Ireland and Peter Saunders of England.
The latter was one of six people who met Francis in July 2013 to inform him about his experiences, an encounter in which the pope said he was "deeply moved by (the victims') witness to the depth of their sufferings and the strength of their faith", in the letter published Thursday.
"This experience reaffirmed my conviction that everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused," he added.
He goes on to point out in the letter that "the Commission can be a new, important and effective means for helping me to encourage and advance the commitment of the Church at every level - Episcopal Conferences, Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, among others."
Francis called on them "to take whatever steps may be necessary to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, and respond to their needs with fairness and mercy".