President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, said the meeting – to be held at the Vatican from February 21 to 24 – was a “step in the right direction”.
“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.
“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. 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 will be no quick fix, but it is a step in the right direction and may be able to suggest to Pope Francis further steps to be taken,” he added.
Paloma García Ovejero, the vice director of the Vatican press office, announced the decision in a briefing yesterday, saying the Pope decided to make the move during a meeting of his advisory Council of Cardinals.
“The Holy Father, hearing from the Council of Cardinals, has decided to call a meeting with the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of ‘protection of minors’,” Ms García said.
This meeting is the first of its kind, as although the Pope meets frequently with groups of bishops from particular countries, a pontiff has never before called all the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to Rome.
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