May 16, 2011

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

The following, in it's entirety, is a copyrighted transcript of the Vatican Information Service.

SUMMARY, 14-16 MAY:


THE CHURCH MUST NOT RENOUNCE HER MISSIONARY ROLE

VATICAN CITY, 14 MAY 2011 (VIS).- At midday today the Holy Father received the participants in the General Assembly of the Pontifical Missionary Works, which reports to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

  The Pope highlighted in his address that "the Church must constantly renew her commitment to bringing Christ to the people, to continue her messianic mission for the coming of the Kingdom of God ... It is therefore necessary to continue the work of evangelisation with renewed enthusiasm ... to lead humankind to the true freedom of the sons of God, against all forms of slavery. It is necessary to cast the net of the Gospel into the waters of history to lead mankind toward the land of God".

  "But in order that there be a decisive commitment to evangelisation, it is necessary that all Christians and communities truly believe that the 'Word of God is the saving truth needed by all men in all times'. If this conviction of faith is not deeply rooted in our life, we are not able to feel the passion and the beauty of announcing it".

  After highlighting that "everyone must be involved in this 'missio ad gentes': bishops, priests, religious and laity", Benedict XVI remarked that "it is necessary, therefore, to devote special attention to ensuring that all sectors of pastoral care, of the catechesis, of charity, are characterised by a missionary element: the Church is a mission".

  "A fundamental condition for announcing the faith is to allow oneself to be completely encompassed by Christ, Word of God incarnate", he continued, "as only by being deeply rooted in Christ and his Word may one be able to resist the temptation to reduce evangelisation to a merely human, social project, neglecting the transcendental dimension of the salvation offered by God in Christ. It is a Word that must be testified to and proclaimed explicitly, as without coherent testimony it is less comprehensible and credible".

  The Pope stressed that "the ministry of evangelisation is fascinating and demanding: it requires love for proclamation and bearing testimony, a love so complete that it may lead even to martyrdom. The Church must not forsake its mission to reveal the light of Christ, to proclaim the good news of the Gospel, even if this may lead to persecution. It is a part of her very life itself, as it was for Jesus. Christians must not be afraid, even if they are 'the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith'".

  The Holy Father concluded by expressing his gratitude for "the work in missionary promotion and formation" of the Pontifical Missionary Works, which he described as "a privileged tool for missionary co-operation and for the effective sharing of personnel and financial resources between Churches".

 

ACTIVITIES AND TRIPS OF THE HOLY FATHER: MAY - SEPTEMBER

VATICAN CITY, 20 APR 2010 (VIS) - Below are highlights of the activities and trips to be undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI between the months of May and September.

MAY

 - Thursday, 26: In the Basilica of St. Mary Major, at 5.30 pm, Rosary with the bishops of the Italian Episcopal Conference and consecration of Italy to the Virgin Mary on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of political union.

JUNE

 - Saturday 4 to Sunday 5: Apostolic trip to Croatia.

 - Sunday 12: Solemnity of Pentecost: Mass at 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica.

 - Sunday 19: Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. Pastoral visit to the Republic of San Marino.

 - Thursday 23: Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Mass at 7.30 p.m. in the basilica of St. John Lateran, procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major and Eucharistic blessing.

 - Wednesday 29: Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul Apostles. Mass at 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Basilica and imposition of the pallium on new metropolitan archbishops.

AUGUST

 - Monday 15: Solemnity of the Assumption. Mass at 8.00 am in the parish church of St. Thomas of Villanova (Castelgandolfo).

 - Thursday 18 to Sunday 21: Apostolic trip to Madrid (Spain) on the occasion of the XXVI World Youth Day.

SEPTEMBER

 - Sunday 11: Pastoral visit to Ancona (Italy).

- Thursday 22 to Sunday 25: Apostolic trip to Germany.

 

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, 14 MAY 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Guzman Carriquiry, under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, as Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

 

PROMOTING AND NURTURING VOCATIONS AND CONSECRATED LIFE

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace to recite the Regina Coeli with the faithful in St. Peter's Square.

  Commenting on the Gospel of this Fourth Sunday of Easter, which "presents us with one of the most beautiful icons that, since the first centuries of the Church, represents Jesus Christ: that of the Good Shepherd", the Holy Father said that "the attitude of the flock toward the Good Shepherd, Christ, is presented by the evangelist with two specific verbs: to listen and to follow. These terms designate the fundamental characteristics of those who live as followers of the Lord. Above all, in listening to His Word, from which the faith is born and nurtured. Only those who are attentive to the voice of the Lord are able to evaluate by their own conscience the correct decision to act according to God. From listening derives, therefore, the decision to follow Christ: we act as disciples after listening to and internalising the teachings of the Master in order to live by them from day to day".

  "This Sunday", he continued, "it is natural to remember the Shepherds of the Church of God, and those who are being formed to become Shepherds. I therefore invite you to say a special prayer for bishops - including the Bishop of Rome! - for parish priests, for all those who have a responsibility in leading the flock of Christ, that they might be faithful and wise in carrying out their office. In particular, let us pray for vocations to the priesthood on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, that authentic workers for the Lord's harvest never be lacking".

  The Holy Father went on to recall that "seventy years ago Venerable Pius XII instituted the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations. The happy intuition of my predecessor was founded on the conviction that vocations grow and mature in the particular Churches, facilitated by healthy family contexts and strengthened by the spirit of faith, charity and piety. In my message for this day I emphasised that a vocation is followed when we leave behind 'our will that is closed in itself and our idea of self-actualisation, to immerse ourselves in another will, God's, letting ourselves be guided by it.'"

  He concluded, "also, in this time when the Lord's voice risks being submerged by so many other voices, every ecclesial community is called to promote and safeguard vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Men, in fact, always need God, even in our technological world, and there will always be a need for Shepherds who announce the Word and help us to meet the Lord in the Sacraments".

 

CALL FOR AN END TO VIOLENCE IN LIBYA AND SYRIA

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2011 (VIS) - After praying the Regina Coeli, the Holy Father remarked that he continued "to follow with great apprehension the dramatic armed conflict in Libya, which has caused a great number of victims and suffering above all among the civil population. I renew a pressing call that the path of negotiation and dialogue prevail over that of violence, with the help of the international organisations that are seeking a solution to the crisis. I assure, furthermore, my prayerful and heartfelt participation in the local Church's undertaking to help the population, in particular through consecrated persons present in the hospitals".

  The Pope went on to speak about the events in Syria, "where it is urgent that a co-existence marked by concord and unity be restored. I ask God that there be no more bloodshed in that homeland of great religions and civilisation, and I invite the authorities and all citizens to do all they can in seeking the common good and in accepting the legitimate aspirations for a future of peace and stability".

  He concluded, "the beatification of John Paul II has had a global resonance. There are other exemplary witnesses of Christ, much less known, that the Church proposes with joy for the veneration of the faithful. Today in Würzburg, Germany, Georg Häfner, a diocesan priest who died in the concentration camp at Dachau is being proclaimed blessed. And last Saturday at Pozzuoli another priest was beatified, Giustino Maria Russolillo, the founder of the Society of the Divine Vocation. We thank the Lord that He ensures the Church does not lack holy priests!"

 

BISHOPS OF INDIA: LIBERTY OF FREEDOM AND WORSHIP

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2011 (VIS) - The Pope today received prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India on their "ad limina" visit.

  In his English-language discourse, the Holy Father affirmed that "the definitive revelation of God which comes to us in Jesus Christ and which believers throughout the world joyfully proclaim is expressed in a particular way in the sacred Scriptures and in the sacramental life of the Church. ... Christ's saving power is also proclaimed in the lives of the saints who have wholeheartedly taken up the Gospel message and lived it faithfully among their brothers and sisters. Christian revelation, when accepted in freedom and by the working of God's grace, transforms men and women from within and establishes a wonderful, redemptive relationship with God, our heavenly Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. This is the heart of the message we teach, this is the great gift we offer in charity to our neighbour: a share in the very life of God".

  "Within the Church, believers' first steps along the way of Christ must always be accompanied by a sound catechesis that will allow them to flourish in faith, love and service. ... Recognizing that catechesis is distinct from theological speculation, priests, religious and lay catechists need to know how to communicate with clarity and loving devotion the life-transforming beauty of Christian living and teaching, which will enable and enrich the encounter with Christ himself. This is especially true of the preparation of the faithful to meet our Lord in the sacraments".

  With reference to the particular situation in India, "which is home to various ancient religions, including Christianity", Benedict XVI emphasised that "the Christian life in such societies always demands honesty and sincerity about one's own beliefs, and respect for those of one's neighbour. The presentation of the Gospel in such circumstances, therefore, involves the delicate process of inculturation. ... The process of inculturation requires that priests, religious and lay catechists carefully employ the languages and appropriate customs of the people they serve in presenting the Good News". To this end, he encouraged the bishops to "oversee this process with a fidelity to the deposit of faith which has been handed down to us to maintain and transmit".

  With regard to interreligious dialogue, the Pope remarked upon the "challenging circumstances many of you face as you develop a dialogue with those of other religious beliefs, all the while encouraging an atmosphere of tolerant interaction". He continued, "Your dialogue should be characterized by a constant regard for that which is true, in order to foster mutual respect while avoiding semblances of syncretism".

  He added, "moreover, as Indian Christians strive to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours of other beliefs, your prudent leadership will be crucial in the civil and moral task of working to safeguard the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of worship. As you know, these rights are based upon the common dignity of all human beings and are recognized throughout the concert of nations".

  He emphasised that "the Catholic Church strives to promote these rights for all religions throughout the world" and concluded by encouraging the prelates "to work patiently to establish the common ground necessary for the harmonious enjoyment of these basic rights in your communities. Even if he encounters opposition, the Christian's own charity and forbearance should serve to convince others of the rightness of religious tolerance, from which the followers of all religions stand to gain".

 

HUMANIST CULTURAL SYNTHESIS OPEN TO TRANSCENDANCE

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2011 (VIS) - At midday today, Benedict XVI received the participants in the World Conference promoted by the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace" on the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII's Encyclical "Mater at magistra".

  In his discourse, the Pope stressed that "truth, love, justice, indicated by Mater et magistra, along with the principal of the universal destination of goods, as fundamental criteria for overcoming social and cultural imbalances, remain the pillars for interpreting and resolving the imbalances caused by today's globalisation. In the face of such imbalances there is a need to re-establish a 'whole reason' able to give rise to a rebirth of thought and ethics. ... It is necessary to develop 'humanistic cultural syntheses' open to transcendence through a 'new evangelisation'".

  "The various examples of imbalance worldwide, characteristic of this age, feed other ills such as disparity, differences in wealth, inequality, which create problems in terms of justice and the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, especially in relation to the world's poorest".

  The Pope remarked that "no less worrying are the phenomena linked to the financial system which, after the most acute phase of the recent crisis, has returned to the frenzied issue of credit contracts which frequently give rise to limitless speculation... similarly, the increase in price of primary energy resources... have negative consequences on the environment as well as on humans".

  "The current social question", he added, "is without doubt that of world social justice... the equitable distribution of material and non-material resources, and the globalisation of substantial, social and participatory democracy". This justice, he continued, "cannot be achieved solely on the basis of mere social consensus, without recognising that this, in order to be long-lasting, must be rooted in universal human good".

  Referring to the media for the diffusion of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the Pope remarked that the Church is important "also in the activities of its cultural associations, its programs of religious instruction and social catechesis in the parishes, in the mass media and the work of announcement and testimony on the part of lay persons, who must be spiritually, professionally and ethically prepared".

  The Holy Father concluded by recalling that "there exist important institutions at the service of the new evangelisation, such as voluntary associations, Christian or Christian-inspired non-governmental organisations, the Commission "Justice and Peace", the offices for social and work problems and the Centres and Institutes for Social Doctrine".

 

CIRCULAR LETTER: GUIDELINES IN CASES OF SEXUAL ABUSE

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2011 (VIS) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith today published a circular letter intended to assist Episcopal Conferences in developing Guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

  "Among the important responsibilities of the Diocesan Bishop in his task of assuring the common good of the faithful and, especially, the protection of children and of the young, is the duty he has to give an appropriate response to the cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics in his diocese. Such a response entails the development of procedures suitable for assisting the victims of such abuse, and also for educating the ecclesial community concerning the protection of minors. A response will also make provision for the implementation of the appropriate canon law, and, at the same time, allow for the requirements of civil law.

I.  General considerations:

a)  The victims of sexual abuse

  The Church, in the person of the Bishop or his delegate, should be prepared to listen to the victims and their families, and to be committed to their spiritual and psychological assistance. In the course of his Apostolic trips our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has given an eminent model of this with his availability to meet with and listen to the victims of sexual abuse. In these encounters the Holy Father has focused his attention on the victims with words of compassion and support, as we read in his 'Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland' (n.6): 'You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated'.

b)  The protection of minors

  In some countries programs of education and prevention have been begun within the Church in order to ensure 'safe environments' for minors.  Such programs seek to help parents as well as those engaged in pastoral work and schools to recognize the signs of abuse and to take appropriate measures. These programs have often been seen as models in the commitment to eliminate cases of sexual abuse of minors in society today.

c)  The formation of future priests and religious

  In 2002, Pope John Paul II stated, 'there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young' (n. 3, 'Address to the American Cardinals', 23 April 2002). These words call to mind the specific responsibility of Bishops and Major Superiors and all those responsible for the formation of future priests and religious. The directions given in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis as well as the instructions of the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See take on an even greater importance in assuring a proper discernment of vocations as well as a healthy human and spiritual formation of candidates. In particular, candidates should be formed in an appreciation of chastity and celibacy, and the responsibility of the cleric for spiritual fatherhood. Formation should also assure that the candidates have an appreciation of the Church's discipline in these matters. More specific directions can be integrated into the formation programs of seminaries and houses of formation through the respective Ratio institutionis sacerdotalisof each nation, Institute of Consecrated Life and Society of Apostolic Life.

  Particular attention, moreover, is to be given to the necessary exchange of information in regard to those candidates to priesthood or religious life who transfer from one seminary to another, between different dioceses, or between religious Institutes and dioceses.

d)  Support of Priests

1. The bishop has the duty to treat all his priests as father and brother. With special attention, moreover, the bishop should care for the continuing formation of the clergy, especially in the first years after Ordination, promoting the importance of prayer and the mutual support of priestly fraternity. Priests are to be well informed of the damage done to victims of clerical sexual abuse. They should also be aware of their own responsibilities in this regard in both canon and civil law. They should as well be helped to recognize the potential signs of abuse perpetrated by anyone in relation to minors;

2. In dealing with cases of abuse which have been denounced to them the bishops are to follow as thoroughly as possible the discipline of canon and civil law, with respect for the rights of all parties;

3. The accused cleric is presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. Nonetheless the bishop is always able to limit the exercise of the cleric's ministry until the accusations are clarified. If the case so warrants, whatever measures can be taken to rehabilitate the good name of a cleric wrongly accused should be done.

e)  Cooperation with Civil Authority

  Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law. Although relations with civil authority will differ in various countries, nevertheless it is important to cooperate with such authority within their responsibilities. Specifically, without prejudice to the sacramental internal forum, the prescriptions of civil law regarding the reporting of such crimes to the designated authority should always be followed. This collaboration, moreover, not only concerns cases of abuse committed by clerics, but also those cases which involve religious or lay persons who function in ecclesiastical structures.

II.  A brief summary of the applicable canonical legislation concerning the delict of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by a cleric:

  On 30 April 2001, Pope John Paul II promulgated the Motu Proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela [SST], by which sexual abuse of a minor under 18 years of age committed by a cleric was included in the list of more grave crimes (delicta graviora) reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Prescription for this delict was fixed at 10 years beginning at the completion of the 18th year of the victim. The norm of the Motu Proprio applied both to Latin and Eastern clerics, as well as for diocesan and religious clergy.

  In 2003, Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the CDF, obtained from Pope John Paul II the concession of some special faculties in order to provide greater flexibility in conducting penal processes for these more grave delicts. These measures included the use of the administrative penal process, and, in more serious cases, a request for dismissal from the clerical state ex officio. These faculties have now been incorporated in the revision of the Motu Proprio approved by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, on 21 May 2010. In the new norms prescription, in the case of abuse of minors, is set for 20 years calculated from the completion of the 18th year of age of the victim. In individual cases, the CDF is able to derogate from prescription when indicated. The canonical delict of acquisition, possession or distribution of pedopornography is also specified in this revised Motu Proprio.

  The responsibility for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors belongs, in the first place, to Bishops or Major Superiors. If an accusation seems true the Bishop or Major Superior, or a delegate, ought to carry out the preliminary investigation in accord with CIC can. 1717, CCEO can. 1468, and SST art. 16.

  If the accusation is considered credible, it is required that the case be referred to the CDF. Once the case is studied the CDF will indicate the further steps to be taken. At the same time, the CDF will offer direction to assure that appropriate measures are taken which both guarantee a just process for the accused priest, respecting his fundamental right of defence, and care for the good of the Church, including the good of victims. In this regard, it should be noted that normally the imposition of a permanent penalty, such as dismissal from the clerical state, requires a penal judicial process. In accord with canon law (cf.CIC can. 1342) the Ordinary is not able to decree permanent penalties by extrajudicial decree. The matter must be referred to the CDF which will make the definitive judgement on the guilt of the cleric and his unsuitability for ministry, as well as the consequent imposition of a perpetual penalty (SST art. 21, '2).

The canonical measures applied in dealing with a cleric found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor are generally of two kinds: 1) measures which completely restrict public ministry or at least exclude the cleric from any contact with minors. These measures can be reinforced with a penal precept; 2) ecclesiastical penalties, among which the most grave is the dismissal from the clerical state.

  In some cases, at the request of the cleric himself, a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, including celibacy, can be given pro bono Ecclesiae.

  The preliminary investigation, as well as the entire process, ought to be carried out with due respect for the privacy of the persons involved and due attention to their reputations.

  Unless there are serious contrary indications, before a case is referred to the CDF, the accused cleric should be informed of the accusation which has been made, and given the opportunity to respond to it. The prudence of the bishop will determine what information will be communicated to the accused in the course of the preliminary investigation.

  It remains the duty of the Bishop or the Major Superior to provide for the common good by determining what precautionary measures of CIC can. 1722 and CCEO can. 1473 should be imposed. In accord with SST art. 19, this can be done once the preliminary investigation has been initiated.

  Finally, it should be noted that, saving the approval of the Holy See, when a Conference of Bishops intends to give specific norms, such provisions must be understood as a complement to universal law and not replacing it. The particular provisions must therefore be in harmony with the CIC / CCEO as well as with the Motu Proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (30 April 2001) as updated on 21 May 2010. In the event that a Conference would decide to establish binding norms it will be necessary to request the recognitio from the competent Dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

III.  Suggestions for Ordinaries on Procedures:

  The Guidelines prepared by the Episcopal Conference ought to provide guidance to Diocesan Bishops and Major Superiors in case they are informed of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics present in the territory of their jurisdiction. Such Guidelines, moreover, should take account of the following observations:

a.)  the notion of 'sexual abuse of minors' should concur with the definition of article 6 of the Motu Proprio SST ('the delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years'), as well as with the interpretation and jurisprudence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while taking into account the civil law of the respective country;

b.)  the person who reports the delict ought to be treated with respect. In the cases where sexual abuse is connected with another delict against the dignity of the sacrament of Penance (SST art. 4), the one reporting has the right to request that his or her name not be made known to the priest denounced (SST art. 24);

c.)  ecclesiastical authority should commit itself to offering spiritual and psychological assistance to the victims;

d.)  investigation of accusations is to be done with due respect for the principle of privacy and the good name of the persons involved;

e.)  unless there are serious contrary indications, even in the course of the preliminary investigation, the accused cleric should be informed of the accusation, and given the opportunity to respond to it.

f.)  consultative bodies of review and discernment concerning individual cases, foreseen in some places, cannot substitute for the discernment and potestas regiminis of individual bishops;

g.)  the Guidelines are to make allowance for the legislation of the country where the Conference is located, in particular regarding what pertains to the obligation of notifying civil authorities;

h.)  during the course of the disciplinary or penal process the accused cleric should always be afforded a just and fit sustenance;

i.)  the return of a cleric to public ministry is excluded if such ministry is a danger for minors or a cause of scandal for the community.

Conclusion

The Guidelines developed by Episcopal Conferences seek to protect minors and to help victims in finding assistance and reconciliation. They will also indicate that the responsibility for dealing with the delicts of sexual abuse of minors by clerics belongs in the first place to the Diocesan Bishop. Finally, the Guidelines will lead to a common orientation within each Episcopal Conference helping to better harmonize the resources of single Bishops in safeguarding minors."

 

NOTE ON THE CIRCULAR LETTER FROM THE CDF

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Below is the note from the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., regarding the Circular Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Episcopal Conferences on the Guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics:

  "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has asked every Bishops' Conferences in the world to prepare 'Guidelines' for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, in ways appropriate to specific situations in different regions, by May 2012.

  In its 'Circular Letter', the Congregation has offered a broad set of principles and indications, which will not only facilitate the formulation of the guidelines and therefore a uniformity of conduct of ecclesiastical authorities in various nations, but will also ensure consistency at the level of the universal Church, while respecting the competence of bishops and religious superiors.

  Priority is given to victims, prevention programs, seminary formation and an ongoing formation of clergy, cooperation with civil authorities, the careful and rigorous implementation of the most canonical recent legislation in the area are the principal considerations that must structure the Guidelines in every corner of the world.

            * * *

  In recent days, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sent to all Episcopal conferences a 'Circular Letter to assist Episcopal Conferences in developing Guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by clerics'.

  The preparation of the document was announced in July, at the time of the publication of new rules for the implementation of the Motu Proprio " Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela " (see Note Fr. F. Lombardi, in OR, 16/07/2010, 1, and www.vatican.va, Abuse of minors. The Church's response).

  H.E., Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation, later informed of its preparation during the meeting of the Cardinals at the November Consistory (see Press Release on the Afternoon Session, 11/19/2010).

  The document is accompanied by a letter of presentation, signed by Cardinal Levada, illustrating its nature and purpose.

  Following the revision of norms on sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy, approved by the Pope last year, 'it seems opportune that each Episcopal Conference prepare Guidelines' whose purpose will be to assist the Bishops of the Conference to follow clear and coordinated procedures in dealing with these instances of abuse. Such Guidelines would take into account the concrete situation of the jurisdictions within the Episcopal Conference.

  To this end, the Circular Letter 'contains general themes' for consideration which naturally must be adapted to national realities, but which will help to ensure a coordinated approach by the various episcopates as well as - precisely thanks to the Guidelines - within the Episcopal Conferences.

  Regarding the drafting of new Guidelines or the revision of existing ones, Cardinal Levada's letter also gives two indications: first, to involve the Major Superiors of clerical religious Institutes (to take into account not only diocesan clergy, but also religious), and then to send a copy of the completed Guidelines to the Congregation by the end of May 2012.

  In conclusion, two concerns are clear:

1.  The need to address the problem promptly and effectively with clear, organic, indications that are suitable to local situations and in relation to the norms and civil authorities. The indication of a specific date and a relatively short period within which all Episcopal conferences must develop Guidelines is clearly a very strong and eloquent statement.

2.  Respect for the fundamental competence of the diocesan bishops (and Major Superiors) in the matter (the wording of the Circular is very keen to stress this aspect: the guidelines are intended to 'assist the diocesan bishops and Major Superiors').

The Circular Letter itself is short but very dense, and is divided into three parts.

  The first part develops a set of general considerations, including in particular:

  Priority attention to the victims of sexual abuse: listening to the victims and their families, and a commitment to their spiritual and psychological assistance.

  The development of prevention programs to create truly safe environments for children.

  The formation of future priests and religious and exchange of information on candidates to the priesthood or religious life who are transferred.

  Support for priests, their ongoing formation and informing them of their responsibilities regarding the issue, how to support them when they are accused, dealing with cases of abuse according to law, the rehabilitation of the good reputation of those who have been unjustly accused.

  Cooperation with civil authorities within their responsibilities. 'Specifically, without prejudice to the sacramental internal forum, the prescriptions of civil law regarding the reporting of such crimes to the designated authority should always be followed'. This cooperation should be implemented not only in cases of abuse by clergy, but by any employee who works in a Church structure.

  The second part addresses applicable canonical legislation in force today, after the revision of 2010.

  It refers to the power of bishops and Major Superiors in preliminary investigation and, in the case of a credible allegation, their obligation to refer the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which offers guidance for the handling of the case.

  It speaks about the precautionary measures to be imposed and information to be given to the accused during the preliminary investigation.

  It refers to the canonical measures and ecclesiastical penalties that can be applied to offenders, including dismissal from the clerical state.

  Finally, it specifies the relationship between canon law valid for the entire Church and any additional specific particular norms that given Episcopal Conferences deem appropriate or necessary, and the procedure to be followed in such cases.

  The Third and final part lists a number of useful observations in formulating concrete operational guidelines for bishops and major superiors.

  Among other things, the need to offer assistance to victims is stressed as well as the need to treat the complainant with respect and ensure the privacy and reputation of the people involved; to take due account of the civil laws of the country, including any obligation to notify the civil authorities; to ensure the accused information on the allegation and an opportunity to respond, and in any case a just and worthy support; to exclude the cleric's return to public ministry, in case of danger to minors or of scandal to the community. Once again, the primary responsibility of bishops and Major Superiors is reiterated, a responsibility which can not be replaced by supervisory bodies, however useful or necessary they may be in support of this responsibility.

  The Circular therefore represents a very important new step in promoting awareness throughout the Church of the need and urgency to effectively respond to the scourge of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Only in this way can we renew full credibility in the witness and educational mission of the Church, and help create in society in general, safe educational environments of which there is an urgent need."

 

AUDIENCES

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2011 (VIS) - On Saturday the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

 - Five prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Salvadore Lobo, of Baruipur.

    - Bishop Stephen Lepcha, of Darjeeling.

    - Bishop Clement Tirkey, of Jalpaiguri.

    - Bishop Joseph Suren Gomes, S.D.B., of Krishnagar.

    - Bishop Alphonsus Flavian D'Souza, S.J., of Raiganj.

  Today, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa (Italy), president of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

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