Catholic Church launches ‘special force’ against child abuse

The National,Monday June 20th, 2016

THE Catholic Church has launched a new kind of “special forces” in the fight against child abuse.
Nineteen men and women from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas became the first graduates awarded special certification in safeguarding of minors – an initiative begun in Rome in 2016 to help dioceses, bishops’ conferences, religious orders and other church bodies excel in child protection.
The graduates – who are psychiatrists, theologians, canon lawyers, educators and child protection officers – were honoured last week at a graduation ceremony at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.
Pope Francis sent a personal letter for the occasion, praising the new graduates and telling them, “I wish you courage and patience; be brave and committed.”
The five-month intensive programme is run by the Centre for Child Protection at the university’s Institute of Psychology and grew out of an e-learning programme, but offers more active discussion and group work with onsite, face-to-face instruction by experts.
The diploma course includes six in-depth interdisciplinary seminars on: defining the problem of sex abuse; children’s rights; the importance of sacred and safe spaces; the abuse of faith in abuse scandals; the liberating force of truth and justice; and how to help survivors and their families.
Now armed with new insights and specialised knowledge, the priests, religious men and women, and consecrated lay people were ready to head home to improve the church’s response and beef up its role in protecting minors.
Chakasara of the Diocese of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, pointed to his large drawing of spear-wielding village leaders fending off a lion, snake and alligator – animals symbolising HIV, poverty and dysfunctional families.
The warrior vs. predator images, he said, illustrated the importance of standing up to and protecting children from specific enemies in a way that would resonate with local villagers.