Planned Seminar by Jesuits in Africa, Response to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on Abuse

Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar have organized a three-day colloquium that aims to develop a concrete response to Pope Francis’s clarion call to “say ‘never again’ to every form of abuse.” Credit: Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar (JCAM)

An upcoming international colloquium organized by members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), is a response to Pope Francis’ 2019  Apostolic Letter  “Vos estis lux mundi” that establishes procedural norms on dealing with sexual abuse in the Church, officials have said.

In a Tuesday, April 6 report obtained by ACI Africa, the leadership of JCAM says that the three-day virtual seminar being organized under the theme, “African Child: Promoting a Consistent Culture of Protection, Care and Safeguarding in Church and Society,” aims to, among other things, “develop a concrete response to Pope Francis’ clarion call to say ‘never again’ to every form of abuse.”

Scheduled to take place from April 28-30, the academic seminar also aims to “contribute to the global ‘task regarding all of us as the People of God’ to create a safe environment for all, especially children, in Church, family and society,” the report published on JCAM’s website indicates.

During the seminar, participants are expected to have the opportunity to “present current research, thinking and best practice in the field of child protection and safeguarding from multiple perspectives in the context of the Church, family and society in Africa.”

The Jesuit-organized virtual engagement is set to “convene practitioners and experts, alongside theologians and other scholars, to explore together the challenges, tasks and commitments presented by sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults for the Church, family, and society in Africa.”


According to officials of the continental Jesuit body, participants at the colloquium “will explore, analyze and discuss issues related to the phenomenon of Clergy sexual abuse through four critical overarching lenses.”

These include justice for victims and survivors; prevention of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people; structural enablers of abuse in the Church, family and society; and restructuring of ecclesial and societal institutions and structures needed to deliver justice and ensure prevention.

“This colloquium will open a new path of multidisciplinary inquiry and constructive conversation by academics and practitioners about the global phenomenon of Clergy sexual abuse in the context of Church and society in Africa,” JCAM’s leadership says.

The event that is expected to bring together Jesuits, laypersons, church leaders, and representatives from other Religious Orders from across the continent also “offers an opportunity for formation and capacity building for the Christian community, leaders, and pastoral agents,” members of the St. Ignatius of Loyola-founded Society say.

“The papers presented will be edited into a single resource volume and made available for publication to inform further research, study, formation, and practice,” they add in their April 6 report.

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In his 9 May 2019 Apostolic Letter, Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world), Pope Francis declared, “Crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful.”

For such abuses “in all their forms” to “never happen again,” the Holy Father underscored the need for a “continuous and profound conversion of hearts attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.” 

Pope Francis’ May 2019 declaration echoed his 2018 pronouncement in his Letter to the People of God where he noted, “The pain of the victims (of clerical sexual abuse) and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”

“No effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated,” Pope Francis added in his 20 August 2018 Letter.