Spiritual encouragement at the start: At the opening of a new master's program for child protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Benedict XVI. pledged its support and prayers to the project.
He "supports the effort to advance the protection of minors in the Church as well as in society as a whole," the letter to the director of the Child Protection Center at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Hans Zollner, reads. The psychologist and theologian presented the letter of the pope emeritus at the opening ceremony in Rome on Friday.
Master's program on child protection opens at Pontifical University
At a ceremony marking the opening of the new master's program on Friday, Cardinal Reinhard Marx said that public prere from outside in particular was forcing the church to rethink its approach. In addition to looking at individuals responsible for abuse, scholars are increasingly looking at systemic factors that encourage abuse and cover-ups, Munich archbishop says.
In his opening speech, the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference emphasized that the church must face up to this challenge.
The "Safeguarding of Minors" program lasts four semesters and is interdisciplinary in nature. It is aimed at those who are responsible for child protection in the church sector worldwide. The new course of study is based at the Center for Child Protection (CCP) of the Gregorian University, directed by the German psychologist and theologian Hans Zollner.
According to Zollner, seven students are currently enrolled. The number is later to be increased to twelve. He said the university currently offers a total of 24 spots for the existing diploma program as well as the new master's program.
Child protection programs
Elizabeth Letourneau, a psychologist from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore (USA), reported on child protection programs that her institute is working on with the CCP. Even if child protection from sexual abuse still seems unfamiliar to many today, he said, in a few years it will be as natural as other protective measures such as rubber gloves, seat belts or vaccinations for children.
The Child Protection Center was founded in January 2012 by the University Gregoriana together with the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising and the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University Hospital Ulm. After a three-year pilot phase until 2014, the institution's headquarters were moved from Munich to Rome.
Among other things, there is an e-learning program at the CCP that is used worldwide for training in various languages. The center now works with 56 partner institutions in 30 countries, Zollner said. In all these programs, he said, some 1,500 people responsible for child protection have now been trained.