Against abuse, more denunciation and more cooperation
The Church is challenged by the suffering caused by its members
Cusco (Peru) and secretary general of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (Celam), participated in the meeting of the bishops responsible for the abuse prevention commissions in the Episcopal Conferences of the continent “The culture of care in the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean: sharing the path”, which is being held in Chile from 17 to 19 November 2023.
In his speech, the prelate thanked the participants for “their willingness to participate in this meeting, and we ask God to prepare our hearts to be open to give and receive, to listen and share, so that we continue to build together this path of prevention, accompaniment, and reparation for victims”.
He recalled that the first Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean, of which “we are celebrating two years, made it clear that the ecclesiastical institution persists in the absence of comprehensive reparation for victims and their families”.
Therefore, a sign of conversion “would be to respond to the demand for transparency and truth in order to confront all these abuses. This implies more willingness to denounce and cooperate, and to recognise errors and ask for forgiveness with humility and reparation”.
He also mentioned that Celam has an Institutional Policy of Care and Protection, therefore, “we feel challenged by the suffering that members of the Church themselves have been and are capable of provoking with their criminal or inappropriate behaviour”.
The result of a process
Don Estrada praised this initiative on the part of “the Episcopal Conference of Chile and its protection commission”, because “it was a providential opportunity to give shape to that desire and that is how we got involved in joining its organisation, dreaming that it could become a space for the whole continent”.
It is a space – he explains – to respond to the concerns expressed by different episcopal bodies, in which the problem has been addressed in depth.
He says that after the pause in the pandemic “in 2022 we called for a virtual meeting with the protection teams and commissions of the bishops’ conferences”, and it was therefore proposed to carry out a survey to “ascertain the state of affairs at the continental level”.
“We repeated the invitation in February of this year, where we were able to hold an interesting dialogue with those present, and the conclusions of the aforementioned consultation were also presented,” he added.
This is how this meeting came about and the Celam, a service organisation of the Episcopal Conferences, wanted to “collaborate with you in articulating efforts, knowledge and learning in order to grow in the care and protection of minors and vulnerable adults”.
Monsignor Lizardo commented that Pope Francis made this request to the previous presidency and that “we have tried to assume it with the awareness of a collegial and articulated space”.
Of the whole process he highlighted “the diversity of the paths followed: some episcopal conferences have been working systematically for years, others have a more recent history, and others, for various reasons, have not yet begun or are at an initial stage”.
This meeting has allowed the Latin American and Caribbean prevention leaders “to exchange experiences in a collaborative way and, at the same time, to renew the desire and determination that sometimes, due to the wear and tear involved in the task, can be affected and cause wear and tear in the teams that have been involved in the issue for a long time”.