The summit will be held from 21-24 February and is expected to draw around 180 people, including presidents of every episcopal conference, abuse survivors and superiors of religious communities.
The summit will include plenary sessions, working groups, prayer, listening to survivor’s testimonies and a penitential liturgy. Pope Francis will be present for the entire three days.
Alessandro Gisotti, the interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, said the February summit’s primary goal is for all bishops to “clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.”
Pope Francis, he said, “knows that a global problem can only be resolved with a global response,” and wants the meeting to be one among pastors with prayer and study, “not an academic conference,” Crux reports.
A fundamental goal for the Pope, Gisotti said, is that all bishops who attend the meeting will go back to their dioceses with a greater understanding of the laws that need to be applied, and that they will take “the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.”
In December organisers of the summit urged the heads of bishops’ conferences to prepare for the gathering by meeting with survivors personally to understand the extent of the harm caused by abuse.
In a letter published on 18 December, the organising team said that without a comprehensive response to the clerical abuse crisis, “not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.”
A first step to addressing the crisis, the letter said, is to recognise “the truth of what has happened,” part of which means meeting with survivors in order “to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured.”