Pope Francis is to create a Vatican commission to protect minors, a project that has the support of eight cardinals. The announcement on December 5 came as concerns were raised about the pontiff’s health, since he cancelled a meeting today in Rome. “The Pope participated in the meetings held yesterday afternoon and this morning”, said Fr. Federico Lombardi, who added that the Pope is feeling well. According to Rev. Lombardi, Pope Francis’s meeting with the Cardinal Archbishop Angelo Scola of Milan and a delegation from EXPO MILAN 2015 was cancelled in order for the Pope to rest following the December 4 general audience at St. Peter’s Square.
Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston is among the cardinals who proposed the creation of the commission to protect minors. He spoke about the Pope’s decision, saying “Continuing decisively along the lines undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI, and accepting a proposal presented by the Council of Cardinals, the Holy Father has decided to establish a specific Commission for the protection of minors, with the aim of advising Pope Francis on the Holy See’s commitment to the protection of children and in pastoral care for victims of abuse.”
Cardinal O’Malley said that the new commission will look into the measures currently in place, as well as suggestions for improvements, to protect children. This will done in cooperation with the various national conferences of bishops and religious orders. The Curia – the Pope’s council of advisors – will vet the names of clergy and laity who will implement new initiatives for the protection of children, as well as issues relating to mental health, victims of abuse, the safety of children, and the application of law. He added, “The composition and competences of the Commission will be indicated shortly, with more details from the Holy Father in an appropriate document.”
Cardinal O’Malley described the breadth of action proposed for the new commission. It will include guidelines, norms, procedures and strategies for protecting children and preventing their abuse. The commission will also recommend programs to educate children and parents, catechists, seminarians and priests, and all those who work with children. Also mentioned is the formulation of codes of professional conduct, background checks, cooperation with governments and requests for psychiatric evaluation, the reporting of crimes, and pastoral care for the victims of abuse and their families, among other initiatives.