President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Mark Coleridge has welcomed Pope Francis’ decision to convene the first-ever meeting of the presidents of the world’s Bishops Conferences to discuss the prevention of abuse.
“Such a meeting is unusual, but it is appropriate and justified as the Church internationally must stand united to eliminate this evil from our midst,” Archbishop Coleridge said in a statement this morning.
The Vatican made the announcement on 12 September after the Pope and members of his international Council of Cardinals wrapped up three days of meetings.
The Pope decided to convoke a meeting from 21-24 February “with the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the protection of minors,” the council said in a written statement.
The members present “extensively reflected together with the Holy Father on the matters of abuse” during their deliberations on 10-12 September.
Archbishop Coleridge said that “as the Australian bishops and leaders of Catholic religious orders said last month, so must the universal Church say as one: Never again.”
“I will go to Rome armed with our understanding gained from decades working to eliminate child sexual abuse and the toxic cultures that allowed it to happen,'” he said.
“I will also go with the stories of survivors in my heart and the many things we have learnt from the Royal Commission.”
The meeting in February on prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults will be “no quick fix” he added, “but it is a step in the right direction and may be able to suggest to Pope Francis further steps to be taken”.
The announcement comes as Pope Francis faces intense scrutiny for his handling of clergy sexual abuse after former United States papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Vigano released a document on August 26 accusing him of involvement in the covering-up of allegations against now ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Today, the Pope will meet with the president and vice-president of the US bishops’ conference on the clergy abuse crisis currently engulfing the US.