FILE – Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in the Kyaikkasan Ground in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up.

The meeting, which opened Thursday, comes at a critical time for the church and Francis’ papacy, following the explosion of the scandal in Chile last year and renewed outrage in the United States over decades of coverup that were exposed by the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

What’s on the agenda?

The meeting is divided into three thematic days, with the final day — Sunday — devoted to Mass and a concluding address from the pope.

Day 1 explored bishops’ responsibilities to their flocks, including their legal responsibility to investigate and prevent abuse.

Day 2 was dedicated to accountability and focused on church leaders working together, along with rank-and-file Catholics, to protect children.

Day 3 focused on transparency, and featured remarks from a Nigerian religious sister, a German cardinal and a Mexican journalist.

The summit began with videotaped testimony of survivors, but there were no sessions devoted specifically to hearing their stories. Participants were told to meet with victims before coming to Rome to learn first-hand of their pain — and to drive home the idea that clergy sex abuse isn’t confined to certain parts of the world.

READ MORE: B.C. woman shares story of abuse with church officials ahead of Vatican summit

Who is attending?

More than 100 presidents of bishops conferences are attending, though at least two — Chilean Archbishop Santiago Silva and Costa Rican Archbishop Jose Rafael Quiros — sent deputies because they themselves are implicated in covering up abuse.

The guest list includes 14 leaders from eastern rite churches, 12 religious superiors of men’s orders and 10 from women’s religious orders. About a dozen Vatican prefects, as well as a half-dozen of the pope’s cardinal advisers and a handful of others, round out the 190 participants.

Only a handful are women, a point driven home by the attention given to the few who were invited to attend.

Three women were selected to address the summit, and after the first of their speeches was delivered Friday by leading canon lawyer Linda Ghisoni, Francis gave a spontaneous meditation on the “feminine mystery” of the church.

“It’s not about giving more jobs to women in the church — yes, this is good but it doesn’t resolve the problem,” he said. “It’s about integrating the woman as the figure of the church into our thinking.”

What are the expected outcomes?

Organizer Cardinal Blase Cupich issued a detailed set of proposals in his address Friday for investigating and holding bishops accountable when they cover up sex abuse, suggesting that new norms are in the works. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said Friday that a “clarification” to the existing norms is expected soon.

In addition, organizer the Rev. Hans Zollner has said he hopes the summit will result in the creation of task forces on each continent to help national bishops’ conferences develop guidelines to fight abuse and tend to victims.

READ MORE: Pope offers 21 proposals to fight abuse at start of sex abuse prevention summit

The Vatican in 2011 told these conferences to draft such guidelines, but to date only about half have adopted policies that have been approved by the Holy See. Not even Vatican City has a policy on the books.

Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican sex crimes investigator, stressed that follow-up for the meeting would be key, mentioning “audits” of conferences to check their progress.

Will gay priests and sexual abuse by priests be discussed?

The scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked last week after being convicted by the Vatican of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians, exposed both the issue of homosexuality among Catholic leaders and the sexual abuse of adults under their authority. Francis’ recent comments about the sexual abuse of nuns also made clear that minors aren’t the only victims of predator priests.

Neither was on the summit agenda, but the issue has come up in discussion, participants said.

Cupich said the sexual abuse of adults needs to be addressed, but he said the four-day summit must remain focused on its original intent.

“Young people, minors don’t have a voice. They are kept in silence,” he said earlier this week. “This is about making sure their voice is heard.”

Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Jumbo saga reaches finale

A three-decade long disagreement comes to a close.

Ktunaxa, supporters celebrate protection of Qat’muk and the Jumbo valley

Speeches, acknowledgements and ceremonies mark an emotional gathering in Cranbrook

Former Waterside property to be rezoned?

Invermere residents supported rezoning Waterside property.

Angel Flight

Flights take patients for medical appointments.

Potential pints and a paroled peacock

Radium council discussed a micro-brewery and one of the village’s wildlife mascots.

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

Protesters block B.C. government building entrance to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Most Read