Australia Hopes for Pope Action on Abuse Crisis

An Australian victims’ advocate says a Vatican summit on child sexual abuse needs to deliver more than words.

Pope Francis has promised concrete action against child sexual abuse by priests, but an Australian victims’ advocate remains sceptical about whether a landmark summit will deliver the necessary changes.

Pope Francis told 190 church leaders to “hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice” over the scourge of child sexual abuse committed by clergy.

“The holy people of God looks to us, and expects from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken,” he said in opening the four-day meeting.

Australian victims’ advocate Dr. Cathy Kezelman said the summit was a big step but survivors needed to see a roadmap for systemic cultural changes within the church’s structure, governance and processes.

“The fear is that this may feel like a tick—we’ve done the four-day summit,” the Blue Knot Foundation president told AAP on Feb. 22.

“Hopefully it’s the beginning of a roadmap, we’re going to all see that roadmap and we’re going to see the changes that that roadmap institutes, and it’s going to be monitored, scrutinised, reported on by external bodies.”

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said he was moved by the videos of five victims played during the summit’s opening day.

“I was far more moved by what I heard this morning than I expected to be. I was surprised at the way tears, as it were, welled up,” the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president told a media conference in Rome.

“It’s not that I hadn’t heard these voices before, I have, but I had never heard them in the extraordinary context of this gathering and frankly in the presence of the Pope.”

Archbishop Coleridge earlier told reporters “the time for words is long, long past.”

“We are dealing with a global emergency, and I don’t think the language is too strong,” he said.

“A global emergency that requires a global response.”

Pope Francis issued a list of 21 “reflection points” designed to protect children.

Kezelman said the list still contained some fairly entrenched approaches to the problem.

“It should no longer be up to the clergy to make decisions about cases,” she said.

“This is a crime and it needs to go through the appropriate civil authorities.”

By Megan Neil

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