Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, speaks at a press Conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Feb. 16. Pilot photo
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Rome (ZENIT) -- One week after the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors meeting in Rome, the Centre for Child Protection (CCP), located at the Pontifical Gregorian University, was inaugurated on Monday evening.
Prior to Centre's inauguration, a press conference was held on Monday evening that detailed their efforts in creating an international research and educational facility dedicated to the prevention of the abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
Among those present at the conference were Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston and President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, President of the Centre for Child Protection and member of the aforementioned Commission; and Prof. Dr. Karlijn Demasure, Executive Director of the Centre.
Originally based in Munich, the Centre for Child Protection was established in January 2012 as the "Catholic Church's global initiative on the prevention of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable men and women." Following a three year pilot phase, the Centre will now be based in Rome.
Cardinal O'Malley began his address by reading a letter from Pope Francis who sent his greetings to the members of the center.
"I would like to send a cordial greeting to you and to all those who work in this initiative. I am happy about what you do, and I sincerely congratulate you," the Holy Father wrote. "I know that all this work will bear fruit. I ask the Lord to accompany you and the Virgin Mother to protect you."
Recalling his service in three U.S. dioceses that were at the center of the clergy sex abuse scandal, Cardinal O'Malley said that initially there were no policies or procedures in place and responses to accusations gave more attention to rehabilitating the perpetrators rather than care for the victims. While much has changed, the American prelate said there is still more work to be done.
"We are painfully aware that still there are many parts of the world where sexual abuse in the Church has not been addressed," he said. "We hope that organizations like the Centre for Child Protection will help to make difference."
Cardinal O'Malley recalled that in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commissioned two studies by John Jay University; the first studied the causes and context of sexual abuse and the second studied its nature and scope.
The study identified 10,676 individual cases of people who brought forth allegations from 1950 to 2002 and also studied the profile of alleged abusers. However, the cardinal said that aside from John Jay's study, no other research studies have been made.
"More studies are needed to ensure safety and best practices," Cardinal O'Malley said. "Helping the leadership of the church to be informed is of paramount importance", especially with issues of accountability, compliance, and monitoring."
"Moving the Centre to the heart of the Church positions its staff to be important players in the protection of children and vulnerable adults," he concluded.
The president of the Centre, Fr. Hans Zollner, reiterated Cardinal O'Malley's assertion that in past years, church leaders did not know how to deal with cases of sexual abuse as well as his hopes that the Centre for Child Protection would assist in training those who engage with victims and perpetrators.
"Normally, a reaction would be not to want to deal with it. So we are very well aware and this will be part of the CCP program: that we have to find a way to really educate the leaders of the Church and those who deal first-hand with victims and perpetrators," he said.
"How can we win [church leaders] over so that they don't neglect the issue?; so that they are welcoming in their attitudes towards victims so that they are not deceived by perpetrators. So certainly this will be part of our efforts."
One of the main efforts of the center is to provide training to dioceses in developing countries that lack money and resources for enforcing programs and best practices in dealing with sexual abuse cases.
As a former missionary bishop in the West Indies, Cardinal O'Malley is very familiar with this reality.
"In mission countries, there are quite limited resources and we would like to be able to address that by helping," he said.
"As president of the Commission, I'm writing to all the presidents of all of the bishops conferences in the world, trying to get them to name a contact person we can deal with in the commission and I know that the resources of the center will be valuable in our outreach to the Church in these developing parts of the world where they are so under-resourced, where they are just beginning to become aware of the importance of this issue."
"As I have said we're not the first and we're not the only center for such research activities," Fr. Zollner added. "So the pontifical commission has established working groups and there are some working groups where we will be involved in but we are not the only ones nor the first ones."
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On the Web:
For more information on the Centre for Child Protection, go to: http://childprotection.unigre.it/en/Pages/home.aspx