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Bishops asked to meet abuse survivors before February meeting

Representatives of the world's bishops conferences and other leaders will meet Feb. 21-25 at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY— Before traveling to Rome for a major Vatican summit on the clerical sex abuse crisis and child protection, each participating bishop should meet with survivors of abuse, stated the committee organizing the meeting.

“The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened. For this reason, we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured,” according to the organizing committee’s letter, released by the Vatican Dec. 18.

The pope is calling the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men and women religious orders to the Vatican Feb. 21-25 to address the crisis.

Meeting first with survivors “is a concrete way of putting victims first and acknowledging the horror of what happened,” said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, adding that “The meeting on the protection of minors will focus on three main themes: responsibility, accountability and transparency.”

In November, the Vatican announced the membership of the organizing committee: Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Writing to meeting participants, they quoted Pope Francis’ letter to Catholics in August, which stated, “If, in the past, the (Church’s) response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.”

Without “a comprehensive and communal response” to the abuse crisis, the committee stated, “not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.”

The members included a questionnaire for participants which wasn’t made public. The committee designed the questionnaire as “a tool for all the participants of the meeting in February to express their opinions constructively and critically as we move forward, to identify where help is needed to bring about reforms now and in the future, and to help us get a full picture of the situation in the Church.”

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