Pope Francis has confirmed Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston to head the papal child protection commission. At the same time, he appointed nine new members to the body. This was announced by the Vatican on Saturday.
Among the nine new members of the commission are people who were themselves victims of sexual violence in the church when they were minors, according to a release from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children. However, they had decided not to do so publicly, but to bring this experience exclusively to the Commission.
The new members are: Myriam Wijlens, Dutch professor of canon law at the Catholic Theological Faculty in Erfurt; Neville John Owen, abuse commissioner of the Catholic Church in Australia; Benyam Dawit Mezmur from Ethiopia, child rights expert of the UN Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Italian Ernesto Caffo, founder of a telephone helpline for children, the founder of the drug rehabilitation center Fazenda da Esperanca Brazil, Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo dos Santos, Sister Jane Bertelsen of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters (United Kingdom), Sister Arina Gonsalves of the Order of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary (India), Sinalelea Fe'ao from Tonga and Teresa M. Kettelkamp, director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Child Protection from 2005 to 2011.
Only those who admit their mistakes and ask for forgiveness can also hope for the understanding and forgiveness of others!
– Pope Francis (@Pontifex_en) 17. February 2018
The commission that assists the Vatican in preventing and punishing sexual abuse in the Catholic Church can thus resume its work. The commission members' first mandate had expired at the end of 2017. The first meeting of 2018 is scheduled to take place in April. Listening to victims of abuse is at the center.
German Jesuit remains a member
Pope Francis also confirmed the German Jesuit and psychologist Hans Zollner, director of the Child Protection Center at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, as a member, as well as six other previous members of the commission. In total, the panel thus consists of 16 members, eight men and eight women each. Zollner told the Catholic News Agency on Saturday that he was grateful for the trust placed in him and was looking forward to working with the other experts. He already knows some of them personally, such as Caffo and Kettelkamp, as well as Mezmur, who "spoke at our congress on the dignity of children in the digital world (Okt. 2017) made a huge impression with its presence and words," Zollner said.
In addition to Zollner, the following child protection experts were confirmed: Adult and adolescent psychotherapist Gabriel Dy-Liacco (Philippines), Colombian Catholic auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Bogota Luis Manuel Ali Herrera, former Polish Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka; Religious Sister Kayula Lesa of Zambia (Order Suore riparatrici del Sacro Cuore), Sister Hermenegild Makoro of South Africa – secretary general of the South African Bishops' Conference (Congregation of the Sisters of the Precious Blood) since 2012 – and Boston priest Robert W. Oliver, previously secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children.
Resignations because progress is too slow
Francis had established the child protection commission in 2014 and placed it under the direction of Cardinal Sean O'Malley. The departure of two abuse victims caused a stir: since February 2016, Peter Sanders, a Briton, had his mandate suspended. Last March, Ireland's Marie Collins resigned, citing a lack of cooperation from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the reason for her move. Two days before the regular end of the commission on 17. December, Sanders also formally resigned his membership on the commission.