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Bishops to attend Rome meeting on preventing abuse

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Representatives of most of the world’s bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders will meet in Rome in early February to launch a global initiative aimed at improving efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and better protect children and vulnerable adults.

The conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” will be held Feb. 6-9 at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and is being supported by the Vatican Secretariat of State and several other Vatican offices.

U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with priests accused of abuse, will give the opening address. Other speakers include: a victim of abuse; mental health professionals who have worked in the areas of prevention and treatment; and bishops from different parts of the world, who will talk about responses to the abuse crisis in their countries.

The conference is designed in part to help bishops’ conferences and superiors of religious orders respond to a 2011 circular letter from the doctrinal congregation requiring all dioceses in the world to develop guidelines on handling allegations of abuse.

After the conference, the Gregorian University and other institutions will launch an e-learning center — the Center for the Protection of Children — which will offer online resources in five languages. The center will be based in Munich, Germany, and is designed to help church leaders respond pastorally to the issue of sexual abuse in the church and society as a whole. The center has been funded for an initial three-year period.

According to the conference program, participants will have an opportunity to attend workshops in their own languages, including one designed for those who are not bishops or priests, “to reflect upon and bring forward perspectives that can often be missed by ordained leaders due to their particular role within the church.”

Other workshops will focus on “the Internet and pornography,” protecting vulnerable adults, best regional practices and the financial cost of the abuse crisis, which the program says already has reached “more than $2 billion in legal expenses.”