The international leader of the Jesuits, Fr General Arturo Sosa, has launched a three-year safeguarding project to work with experts in building a culture of protection and safety for minors in Jesuit communities and ministries across the globe.
Irish Jesuit Fr John Guiney has been appointed coordinator of the project. Fr Guiney will work with experts in mapping and evaluating safeguarding efforts in Jesuit communities around the globe, and then supporting Jesuit leaders in their safeguarding efforts.
‘With God’s help, this project will ensure a consistent culture of protection and safety for minors: that is to say, a normal, habitual way of living, relating, working, in which those whom we serve, particularly children, always feel respected, safe and loved’, said Fr Sosa, in a letter to Jesuit communities on 16 October.
Promoting a ‘consistent culture of protection and safety for minors’ was one of the key recommendations from the last major international gathering of Jesuits, General Congregation 36, in 2016.
This ‘consistent culture’, said Fr Sosa, goes beyond establishing protocols and ensuring people are compliant with them in their activities — although this is important.
‘A true commitment to the vulnerable and weak flows, rather, from a life of integrity based on a passionate attachment to Jesus poor and powerless’, said Fr Sosa.
Fr Sosa noted that the Jesuits have already undertaken a number of initiatives to respond to this issue internationally. His predecessor, Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ, wrote to major superiors in May 2015, asking them to ensure protocols were in place to deal with allegations, and that there were guidelines for ethical behaviour and formation programs for Jesuits and collaborators in all communities and ministries.
Each conference has run training programs on safeguarding for Jesuit major superiors. And the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection has been established to provide training and formation for those working in safeguarding.
‘This new Safeguarding Project takes the next step on this journey, and is also a way in which the Society can support Pope Francis as he strives for a change in the underlying culture of clericalism that has prevented timely intervention about abuse’, said Fr Sosa.
Fr Sosa concluded the announcement by asking for prayers for survivors of abuse.
‘We remember in a special way those who have suffered abuse and we pray that this initiative will be a way to prevent such abuse happening in the future.’