Justice for Victims Emphasized at DR Congo Bishops’ Training on Child Safeguarding

Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO) with the Apostolic Nuncio in DRC, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero.
Credit: Public Domain

At a three-day training on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults in the Church, the Archbishop at the helm of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO) has called for justice that guarantees that the Church remains a “safe house of healing and renewal.”

In the face of crimes that violate the dignity of children and create scandal in the Church, we all have a shared responsibility to administer justice well in order to make our Church a safe house of healing and renewal,” CENCO President, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa said Monday, March 2, during the opening of the training held in DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.

The Archbishop advocated for professionalism in dealing with cases of child safeguarding saying, “The goals of good justice can only be achieved with qualified personnel, with proper respect for procedures and with appropriate disciplinary measures.”

The training that concluded Wednesday, March 4 had the theme, “Protection of minors and vulnerable persons.”

It is “a painful theme when one considers especially the crime of sexual abuse committed by clerics against minors and vulnerable persons,” Archbishop Utembi told his brother Bishops who gathered at Caritas reception centre, the venue of the training.

“We proposed this theme because we have an absolute conviction in the dignity of every human being created in the image of God,” the Congolese Prelate added.

Sponsored by the Apostolic Nuncio in DRC, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, Secretaries of the various Commissions of CENCO as well as Vicars of justice were in attendance alongside Bishops in DRC.

In his speech, the Apostolic Nuncio reminded the Bishops of their responsibility in ensuring the protection of minors saying, “The universal Church is giving the Bishops a large space for the exercise of their function as judges in their respective Dioceses.”

“The role of the judge always has a pastoral imprint insofar as it leads to communion among the members of the People of God,” said Archbishop Balestrero said and added, “This requires, however, a great responsibility and competence on the part of the Bishops.”

“The Bishops themselves are called to account and can be dismissed if they have been seriously negligent in the exercise of their pastoral office,” the 54 year-old Italian Prelate emphasized, referencing Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio of June 2016 titled As A Loving Mother.

The Nuncio cited Pope Francis’ address to members of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, urging the members of CENCO to avoid “arbitrary solutions” when dealing with cases of abuse.

“Applying the laws of the Church is not an obstacle to the presumed pastoral effectiveness of those who want to solve problems without the law, but a guarantee of a search for solutions that are not arbitrary but truly just and, therefore, truly pastoral,” the Papal representative in DRC explained.

He added, “Avoiding arbitrary solutions, the law becomes a valid guard for the defense of the less privileged and the poor, a protective shield for those who risk falling victim to powerful people who are on duty.” 

The purpose of the convention, the Nuncio said, “is precisely to deepen, in a practical way, the administrative process, especially in those cases reserved for the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and those that fall within the competence of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.”

“It is essential to have a clear understanding of the modalities by which an administrative process is to be carried out,” he emphasized and added, “It is not enough to be right in the substance of the problem.”

The training is in addition to several other actions undertaken by the Congolese Church in the framework of the implementation of Pope Francis’ May 7, 2019 Apostolic Letter Vos estis Lux Mundi (You are the Light of the World) on sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people.

Last month, DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi and Pope Francis exchanged tools of ratification for the Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Central African nation.

The Nuncio informed the participants that “in the coming days CENCO will draw up a prospectus of points of interest for each Bishop and in the coming months a small group of experts will be formed within the CENCO Secretariat to indicate the main points of the Agreement to be developed in negotiation with the Government which was approved by DRC’s Parliament in 2018.”


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