Congolese bishops hold session on the protection of minors
By Lucie Sarr
La Croix International
March 05, 2020
|Members of the National Catholic Episcopal Conference of the Congo|
Photo by Junior D.Kannah
Papal nuncio reminds bishops they can be removed if they are not vigilant
The bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have held their first training session on the protection of minors in the Church.
Meeting from Mar. 2-4 at a Caritas center in Kinshasa, the session was the Congolese Church's latest effort to implement Pope Francis' "motu proprio," Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world), on sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons.
The training session was funded and facilitated by the apostolic nunciature in DRC.
Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, who has been the pope's representative to the county since July 2018, reminded the bishops of their responsibilities in the area of child protection.
"The universal Church is giving the bishops a great deal of space for the exercise of their function as judges in their respective dioceses," he explained.
He warned them that bishops are called to account and could be dismissed if they have been seriously negligent in the exercise of their pastoral office.
Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo of Kinshasa, vice-president of the national bishops' conference (Cenco), presided at the Mar. 2 opening Mass.
In his homily, the Capuchin Franciscan spoke of the situation of children in the city of Kinshasa, the seat of his archdiocese.
Archbishop Marcel Utembi of Kisangani, who is currently Cenco president, said the Church has a duty to administer justice well when dealing with crimes that violate the dignity of the child.
Measures for the protection of minors
Father Georges Kalenga, second secretary general of Cenco, outlined the measures the bishops have taken to protect minors in an interview last October with La Croix Africa.
He noted that in 2013 they published a text entitled "Guidelines for dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors", which emphasize that special attention must given to the victims.
It states that "in the prevention of abuse and the protection of minors, another two-fold attention is needed: the training of clerics, as well as all the faithful, and the treatment of the accused in appropriate facilities to ensure they do not offend again".
"The bishops of Cenco also insist that clerics be informed of the damage that priest sexual abuse causes the victim and that the cleric must be held responsibility at the canonical and civil level," explained Father Kalenga in that interview.
This is being reiterated in training sessions priests must take concerning sexual abuse.
Such training is offered to all Church employees and and those who deal in any way with children in Church structures: schools, hospitals, and the Catholic Action Movement. All coordinators of Catholic schools in DR-Congo are also given child protection training.
In addition, every diocese is urged to take initiatives to promote a frank dialogue within the Living Ecclesial Communities (CEV) on the issue of sexual abuse.
The Congolese bishops' conference has also mandated that each diocese set up an office where people can report alleged abuse.