Catholic dioceses team up to promote safe parishes for children and young people

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The Archdiocese of Sydney has joined forces with the Dioceses of Broken Bay and Parramatta to produce a new downloadable resource offering clear advice to parishes on how to promote safe communities for children and young people to help them reach their full potential.

The booklet, Children and Young People’s Participation in Catholic Communities: A Guide to Supporting and Engaging, Listening and Communicating with Children and Young People was released to coincide with National Child Protection Week from 6-12 September.

The booklet has been endorsed by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Bishops Anthony Randazzo and Vincent Long.

A fundamental duty

It emphasises that Catholic communities have a fundamental obligation to children and young people and must commit themselves to a zero tolerance approach to any attitude and activity that makes them feel unsafe.

The booklet draws upon the Catholic social teaching of subsidiarity to emphasise the importance of encouraging the participation of Children and Young People in our Church communities, arguing this is critical to help them find their voice in a safe and supportive environment.

In so doing it draws significantly upon Pope Francis’ 2019 exhortation to Young People, Christus Vivit, in which he argued the importance of the Church embracing the active participation of young people.

Pope Francis poses for a selfie during a pre-synod gathering of youth delegates in 2018 at the Pontifical International Maria Mater Ecclesiae College in Rome. Photo: CNS, Vatican Media

Listening to the young

“We need to make more room for the voices of young people to be heard: listening makes possible an exchange of gifts in a context of empathy. At the same time, it sets the conditions for a preaching of the Gospel that can touch the heart truly, decisively and fruitfully”, the Holy Father wrote.

In a message within the booklet, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said it was critical for parish communities to encourage children and young people to speak up, build their confidence and ensure our practices are informed by them.

“At its heart, the call to ‘listen’ is a call to make a choice for respecting the intrinsic dignity of every human person, this includes our children and young people”, Archbishop Fisher explained.

The power of affirmation

“Many times throughout the gospels, we are shown Jesus’ profound love and respect for the little ones, especially the children who were brought to him. By listening to children and young people, we are recognising their right to be heard and committing anew to their dignity”.

The booklet also emphasises the importance of supporting and engaging children and young people in our Catholic communities, empowering them through positive and affirming experiences.

It also emphasises the importance of communicating with children and young people, based on a two-way interaction that provides encouragement, allows expression, informs and connects, which ultimately helps them find their voice in a safe and supportive environment.

Young people pray during a holy hour. One of those endorsing the new resource for parishes, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, says it is not only important to empower the young but to nurture respect and trust as well. Photo: CNS, Gregory A. Shemitz

Nurturing respect and trust

The Bishop of Parramatta, Vincent Long  OFM Conv said it was critical to not only empower children and young people but to nurture respect and trust so that Catholic communities can demonstrate that we take their views seriously.

“Children and young people who are at risk often experience a sense of mistrust and helplessness. Thus, it is the role of the Catholic communities to engage and support them on the journey towards health, wholeness and transformation”, Bishop Long wrote.

“Through positive and affirming experiences, they are empowered to live dignified, fruitful and rewarding lives. St John writes that fear is cast out of love (1 John 4:18). If by our engagement and support, their fear is replaced by confidence, then we will have succeeded in helping children and young people to make a new beginning of hope”.

The full resource is available for download on the Archdiocese of Sydney website.

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