Pope’s commission against minor abuse to train bishops

The Vatican said Friday its anti-sexual abuse commission would work more closely with its evangelization branch in order to better protect minors, including training bishops from dioceses far from Rome.

St Peter's Square Vatican
Pope Francis has vowed a zero-tolerance stance on abuse and has changed the law so that suspected cases must be reported. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

Pope Francis set up the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014 to fight clerical sex abuse, which will now collaborate with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization, according to the three-year agreement.

The commission has come under fire recently after its most influential member, Hans Zollner, quit in March, accusing the body of urgent problems related to compliance, accountability and transparency.

The agreement announced Friday calls for the commission to work together with the Dicastery in training sessions for newly appointed bishops, among other collaborative measures.

In an interview with Vatican News, the head of the commission, US Cardinal Sean O’Malley, said the group would conduct outreach to dioceses to help “develop programs, to be able to receive victims and have a pastoral care for them.”

Regarding the training of new bishops, who are all brought to Rome for such instruction, he said, “If we had had the opportunity to hear about safeguarding, and understand, the history of the church would have been different.”

“We always try and take a survivor, a victim with us so that the new bishops can hear firsthand just how dramatic the effect of this terrible crime has been on their lives,” O’Malley added.

Francis had asked the commission to work with bishops, to ensure “they have the capacity to be able to accompany the victims and to work with them.”


The head of the evangelisation dicastery, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, told Vatican News that one challenge for his department involved communicating laws and guidelines imposed by the Vatican to those in other regions.

“My impression is [that] the guidelines are clear for those of us who have been formed in a particular culture, and we tend to presume that what is clear to us is clear to other people now,” he said.

Zollner was the last remaining founding member of the commission to protect minors, where problems emerged just three years after it was established.

Abuse survivor Marie Collins resigned in 2017, saying the group faced fierce resistance within high echelons of the church.

Francis has vowed a zero-tolerance stance on abuse and has changed the law so that suspected cases must be reported, but victims’ associations say he still has not gone far enough.

The pope has recently tried to strengthen the commission by making it part of the Vatican office that processes clergy sex abuse cases.

Asked by Vatican News to respond to criticism of the commission, O’Malley said that at the body’s founding in 2014 there were “unrealistic expectations as to what this group of volunteers would be able to do to solve all the problems of sexual abuse in the Church and the world.”

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Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro dies after long illness

The notorious mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, captured in January after three decades on the run, has died in hospital in central Italy.

Sicilian mafia boss Messina Denaro dies after long illness

Matteo Messina Denaro, known as the ‘last godfather’ of the Cosa Nostra mafia and accused of a long series of heinous crimes, died in the early hours of Monday, Italian news agency Ansa announced overnight.

The 61-year-old had colon cancer, for which he had sought treatment while on the run – a decision that reportedly brought him to the attention of the authorities, who arrested him at a clinic in Palermo.

Messina Denaro was one of the most ruthless bosses in Cosa Nostra, the real-life Sicilian crime syndicate depicted in the Godfather movies.

He was convicted by the courts of involvement in the murder of anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone in 1992 and in deadly bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1993.

One of his six life sentences was also handed down for the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the 12-year-old son of a witness in the Falcone case.

Messina Denaro disappeared in the summer of 1993, and spent the next 30 years on the run as the Italian state cracked down on the Sicilian mob.

READ ALSO: Messina Denaro: How Italy caught ‘most wanted’ mafia boss after 30 years

But he remained the top name on Italy’s most-wanted list and, increasingly became a figure of legend.

He was arrested on January 16th as he visited a health clinic where he was being treated using a fake identity.

Mafia boss hideout in Sicily

Police officers prevent access to mafia boss Messina Denaro’s hideout in Campobello di Mazara, Sicily. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

He was detained in a high-security jail in L’Aquila, central Italy, where he continued treatment for his cancer in his cell.

In August, Messina Denaro was moved to the inmates’ ward of the local hospital, where his condition had declined in recent days.

This weekend, media reports said he was in an “irreversible coma”. Medics had stopped feeding him and he had asked not to be resuscitated, they added.

His arrest may have brought some relief for his victims, but the mob boss always maintained his silence.

In interviews in custody since being arrested, Messina Denaro even denied he was a member of the Cosa Nostra.


After Messina Denaro went on the run, there was intense speculation that he had gone abroad – and he likely did.

But in the end, he was found to have been staying near his hometown of Castelvetrano in western Sicily.

READ ALSO: Police arrest dozens in major raid on Italy’s youngest mafia

Preparations are already under way for his burial in the family tomb in the town, alongside his father, Don Ciccio, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Don Ciccio was also head of the local clan. He was said to have died of a heart attack while on the run, his body left in the countryside, dressed for the funeral.

Investigators had been combing the Sicilian countryside for Messina Denaro for years, searching for hideouts and wiretapping members of his family and his friends.

They were heard discussing the medical problems of an unnamed person who suffered from cancer, as well as eye problems – a person who detectives became sure was Messina Denaro.

They used a national health system database to search for male patients of the right age and medical history, and eventually closed in.