BY Peter Diamond | February 22 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

Ordination to the Priesthood of Emmet O'Dowd and Rafal Szweda and Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate of Douglas Duncan, Conferred by Rt. Rev. Hugh Gilbert bishop of Aberdeen. Friday 6th July 2018 at St Mary's Cathedral, Aberdeen.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Mc Sherry 07770 393960 @Paulmcsherry2

Bishop asks for prayers for success of Vatican abuse summit

The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has asked for prayers that a Vatican summit this weekend on the subject of abuse ‘may bear the fruit for which the Pope is hoping.’

Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen Diocese will be attending the conference in Rome from February 21 to 24 in his first major role since being elected the new president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland last November.

From Thursday to Sunday, Bishop Gilbert will join 189 Catholic bishops and cardinals and representatives of religious orders, including 10 women, who will gather in the Vatican at the Pope’s request. The event marks the first time in history that a pope has called senior bishops to discuss sexual abuse.

Bishop Gilbert, said: “The Holy Father has called a meeting of bishops and religious superiors to address the Protection of children and young people and he intends to be present throughout.

“I am attending as president of the Bishops Conference of Scotland and ask the prayers of the readers of the SCO that this meeting may bear the fruit for which the Pope is hoping.

“It is not an academic conference. It is above all pastoral and prayerful. It is about the raising of a global awareness and finding common policies.”

Bishop Gilbert added that while ‘expectations must be realistic’ it is an important step for the Church to make.

The conference has been called in part as a result of an abuse scandal in the United States. Former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was accused of abusing minors and other young people, including seminarians. He was laicized last week.

Victims’ testimonies

Asked if the conference would discuss the safety of seminarians, Bishop Gilbert said: “We will listen to the testimonies of those who suffered abuse at the hands of clergy.

“We will discuss the responses in place in different countries, including Scotland where a great deal of work has been and is being done. There will be a penitential liturgy.

“Our expectations must be realistic, but this is an important step on a journey we all need to make. May Christ, the great Champion of the children and the young, have his way with us.”

In 2011 the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland established the McLellan Commission to review Safeguarding practice in the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Its report was published in 2015, at which time the bishops published their own plan for implementing the report recommendations.

This ‘plan’ led to the publication of In God’s Image, which came into effect in May 2018 and is to be followed by every diocese in Scotland.

Two dioceses were also chosen at random to be involved in a professional audit of safeguarding to be conducted by Social Care Institute for Excellence and Children in Scotland.

Galloway Diocese was audited this week from February 19 to 21 and St Andrews & Edinburgh is to be audited from March 26 to 28.

The independent audit team will hear from people with first-hand experience of how people in diocesan roles have responded, or failed to respond to disclosures of abuse.

Both dioceses will have no direct involvement in the confidential process except to publicise that the audit is taking place.

Church response

A spokesperson for the Church said: “The Church in Scotland has been working quietly but tirelessly in recent years to put in place rigorous safeguarding protocols and procedures that can be measured against the best international standards.

“Every bishop in Scotland has met with survivors of abuse, and with representatives of survivor groups to say sorry and to share in their pain.

“The Church has condemned any form of abuse by anyone, anywhere, working for or on behalf of the Church and has accepted pastoral responsibility for those who have been harmed.

“All those serving the Church in Scotland, including bishops, priests, seminarians, religious, employees and volunteers, who work with children and vulnerable adults, undergo mandatory PVG checks and safeguarding training.

“Currently, 432 parishes are supported by 502 parish safeguarding co-ordinators and 9,267 safeguarding volunteers.”

Ahead of the conference, the Church added: “At the meeting on the Protection of Minors, we will share our experiences and learn from others in a spirit of goodwill; to secure justice and healing for those who have been abused, and to guard against abuse both now and in the future.”

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