According to the National Catholic Register, on an overnight flight from Panama back to Rome, on 28 January, the Pope held a news conference for journalists during which he outlined three goals for the 21-24 February Vatican summit.
He said the focus should remain squarely on those goals and the first step was to be aware of the problem. “I’ve perceived a bit of an inflated expectation. We need to deflate the expectations to these points,” he said. “Because the problem of abuses will continue. It’s a human problem.”
According to the Catholic Register, the Pope said he hoped to make church leaders around the world understand the pain sexual abuse inflicts upon victims, teach them how to properly investigate reported cases, and develop protocols for the entire church hierarchy to use in any alleged instance of abuse.
He said he regularly met with abuse victims in order to understand the lasting effects of sexual abuse. “I remember one ... 40 years without being able to pray. It is terrible; the suffering is terrible,” he said. Victims of clergy sexual abuse and leaders of men’s and women’s religious orders will be present at the summit, which the Vatican has previously clarified will be “an assembly of pastors, not an academic conference”.
On the papal flight, Pope Francis said he was hopeful the heads of all of the episcopal conferences left Rome next month with a common understanding of the “protocols” needed to address sexual abuse in their respective countries. He said each episcopal conference would make “general programs” detailing the responsibilities of each local Church authority for handling sex-abuse cases.
“We, resolving the problem in the Church [and] raising awareness, will help to resolve it in society … but first, we must become aware, have the protocols and move forward,” he said.