.- Just over a month ahead of the much-anticipated February meeting on sex abuse, the Vatican said the summit’s goal is for bishops to leave the meeting knowing clearly what it is they need to do to stop the abuse of minors.
According to a statement by papal spokesperson Alessandro Gisotti Jan. 16, the February meeting “has a concrete purpose: the goal is that all of the bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.”
“It is fundamental for the Holy Father,” Gisotti said, that the bishops of the February gathering, when they have returned home, “understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.”
It was also stated that Pope Francis wants the summit of bishops to be “an assembly of Pastors, not an academic conference,” and that he knows “a global problem can only be resolved with a global response.”
It will be a meeting “characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering,” the statement read.
It concluded by drawing attention to the high expectations surrounding the summit, recalling that the Church is “not at the beginning of the fight against abuse,” but that the meeting is just one step along a “painful journey” the Church has “decisively undertaken” for the last 15 years.
According to the Vatican, the February meeting will include plenary sessions, working groups, moments of prayer, listening to victim testimonies, a penitential liturgy, and a final Mass.
Pope Francis will be present for the entirety of the gathering.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, president of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation and former director of the Holy See Press Office has been asked by Pope Francis to moderate the plenary sessions.
The gathering, which will take place Feb. 21-24, is focused on the protection of minors from sexual abuse within the Church. The pope has asked the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, and the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, to attend.
The U.S. bishops expected to attend are United States Conference of Bishops President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Vice-President Jose Gomez, and Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, who is on the planning committee of the summit.
One part of the preparation for the meeting is a questionnaire which bishops were asked to fill out and submit to the planning committee by January 15.
Participating bishops were also urged to meet with victims of clergy sexual abuse in their own countries in advance of the gathering.