Friday, 20 April 2012

Catholic bishops to address child sex abuse during Guyana confab

Well they are going to discuss much more than just that.... but that was the headline in the Guyana Times dated 20th April 2012. there was no byline. Here is the article:

Roman Catholic bishops will review the region’s programme to protect children from sexual abuse when they meet in Guyana later this month for their annual general meeting.

Sixteen bishops and archbishops, who head the Roman Catholic Church in the English, French and Dutch speaking Caribbean countries from Bermuda and Bahamas to Cayenne and Curacao, will be in Guyana from April 21 to 27 to participate in their annual general meeting. This group known as the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) will be joined by the Papal Representative to the Antilles region, based in Port of Spain, Italian Archbishop Nicola Girasoli.

According to a release, the event will be officially inaugurated with a mass at Brickdam Cathedral at 16:00h on Sunday. Following an old tradition, the most recently ordained bishop in the AEC, Bishop Kenneth Richards of St John’s, Antigua and Basseterre, St Kitts will deliver the homily. The meeting will also welcome two other recently appointed bishops, Archbishop Joseph Harris of Port of Spain, and Bishop Jason Gordon of Bridgetown, Barbados and Kingstown, St Vincent. With these appointments and the upcoming ordination of an auxiliary bishop in Belize, only one of the 19 dioceses in the AEC does not have a bishop resident in the territory.
The inaugural mass will be preceded by a retreat on bishops’ spirituality and followed by a Study Day on Collegiality and cooperation among bishops, both of which will be led by U.S. Emeritus Archbishop of New Orleans Alfred Hughes. On Monday April 23, the president of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Bahamas and Bishop Francis Alleyne of Georgetown will pay a courtesy call on President Donald Ramotar.

Archbishop Girasoli will present his diplomatic credentials as Vatican representative to the government of Guyana the same day. The same afternoon there will be a meeting of the bishops with the local church leadership and diocesan organisation representatives at the St Paul’s Pastoral Centre at Better Hope on the East Coast Demerara.

The working sessions of the bishops will also include a review of plans by the AEC to sponsor the training of a Caribbean team of psychologists, social workers and counsellors in June in Trinidad, who will help in the church’s response to trauma to the victims of the frequent natural and other national and regional disasters such as floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. The one week training seminar will be directed by a top international expert in the field of trauma response. Another item on the agenda is a review of the region wide programme for the protection of God’s children in the region from sexual abuse through ongoing and in-depth training and motivation of all church personnel working with children through the Virtus Programme.

The bishops will finalise plans for the AEC Youth Assembly in St Lucia on July 19 to 29. That event will be attended by more than 1000 English, French and Dutch speaking youths across the region.

This will be immediately followed by a training seminar for Diocesan vocations directors and other vocations promoters from across the region in Castries, St Lucia on July 30 to August 3, which will give serious attention to the challenges posed by the sharp reduction in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and address creative responses to training vocations promoters and giving greater witness of unity and enthusiasm by Catholics, clergy and laity in attracting vocations to the service of Christ in the people of the region.

Given the renewed priority of sacred scripture, underlined by the 2008 Vatican Synod and emphasised by Pope Benedict XVI on the “Word of God” and similar priority of the 2007 Aparecida Conference in Brazil of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM), the bishops will discuss ways of promoting reading, meditation and action on the Bible by believers across the region.

About 2.2 million or one quarter of the total population of the countries that make up the AEC are Catholic. This will be the third time in its 64-year history that the AEC will meet in Guyana. The Church in Guyana first hosted a meeting of the group in 1974, and a much shorter forum in 1977.

Decisions are taken at these gatherings to give the Catholic churches in this region an orientation which will make them better able to respond to the realities and expectations of Caribbean peoples.

Last year’s meeting approved a major statement in a pastoral letter on Catholic education, renewing the commitment of the church to education at all levels in the region, and promoting “ongoing faith formation and professional development programmes” for Catholic educators across the region.

Important, landmark documents and decisions have emerged from past meetings of the AEC which dealt with a wide range of issues, including child abuse, capital punishment, care for the environment, justice and peace, and freedom and development.

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