Protection of minors

Educating and welcoming in a safe enviornment

Networked assocations for a leadership training project aimed at preventing and combating abuse

Ever more on the side of the little ones: this is the goal with which the SAFE project was launched, jointly promoted by the Pope John XXIII Community association, Italian Catholic Action, and the Centro Sportivo Italiano, in partnership with the Alma Mater Studiorum—University of Bologna.

The project was inaugurated this past Friday, 2 October, with the webinar “Educating and welcoming in safe environments: towards a Church and a society on the side of little ones” on the YouTube channel of the Pope John XXIII Community and livestreamed on the Facebook pages of the three associations. Linda Ghisoni, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life—together with Jesuit Father Hans Zollner—participated in the online event by answering questions asked by moderator Emanuela Vinai, the coordinator of the national service for the protection of minors of the Italian Church.

Evoking the meeting on the protection of minors within the Church which was held at the Vatican in February 2019, Linda Ghisoni reiterated the need to face the scourge of sexual abuse with the frankness requested by the Holy Father: “It is crucial,” said the Undersecretary in responding to a question, “that we leave the blind and fruitless alleys of denial, morbid curiosity, and avoidance, so as to face the reality of sexual abuse and abuses of power and conscience honestly and according to the truth—thus putting the person at the center, especially the smallest and most fragile, weak, and vulnerable.” She further specified: “However, it is necessary to speak about this in a competent and qualified way; to raise awareness, to inform, to educate and, and in this way to work towards prevention.”

In this regard, Hans Zollner recalled how the health emergency of COVID-19, which is still underway, has in no way curbed the abuse of minors. But which, as is clear from the news, has on the contrary seen an increase. That is, it is an emergency that requires new means of providing adequate and qualified attention to these new challenges.

Referring also to the Safe project initiative, Linda Ghisoni stressed that “since the macabre game of silence which is ritually implemented by the abusers is accompanied by the isolation of the victim, talking about these issues creates a sort of safety net; i.e. a context which is vigilant, critically discerning, open to communication, and thereby suitable for prevention. With the Safe Project, we are promoting things which bear witness to an alliance, a synergy, a commitment, and a joint action which in itself constitutes a strength, because you share diversified and complementary skills which makes the work of training which you put in place more widespread.”

The Safe project, co-financed by the European Union, aims to support the integration of child protection policies in Italian religious organizations and therefore to guarantee the possibility of solid and effective training of the animators of these associations in the prevention and reporting of abuse in entities that maintain regular contact with minors. The three associations have thus launched a two-year program in the Italian territory with ad hoc training courses for members and leaders.

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05 October 2020