Vatican Sponsors Global Summit on Child Abuse

Posted February 6th, 2012 at 12:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Roman Catholic leaders from across the globe have opened an unprecedented Vatican-sponsored summit on ways to detect and prevent sexual child abuse by clergy.

Organizers say the four-day, closed-door symposium, hosted by Rome's Jesuit-run Gregorian University, includes bishops from 100 countries and representatives of more than 30 religious orders.

University Vice Rector Hans Zollner said the summit will include a vigil ceremony Tuesday in Rome's Saint Ignatius church in which several religious orders embroiled in the church's sex abuse scandal will publicly ask forgiveness from abuse survivors.

Pope Benedict has expressed shame and sorrow over abuse allegations that have rocked the church in the past decade. He has called on bishops to come up with common guidelines against pedophiles by May 2012.

The summit has drawn sharp criticism from victims' groups who say they were not invited to participate. Italian media carried interviews Monday with critics who dismissed the symposium as a public relations maneuver.

The French news agency quotes the head of a Italian victims' support group (La Caramella Buona) as saying the summit reflects the church's unwillingness to hold “constructive debate” on the scandal. He said the church is, in his words, “too closed in on itself.”

The church in the past decade has faced accusations from thousands of people in Europe and the United States of sexual abuse by clergy, with some of the complaints dating back decades and longer.

A 2009 report by an Irish commission on child abuse said religious authorities sexually, physically and emotionally terrorized thousands of children in reform schools, orphanages and other child care facilities for much of the 20th century. The commission headed by Irish High Court Justice Sean Ryan, said rape and molestation were “endemic” in boys facilities run by the Christian Brothers religious order, and said virtually no one took measures to protect the children.