Sexual assault in Italy, bishops under pressure

Will the Italian bishops, in turn, intend to launch a major investigation into the crimes of children in the ecclesiastical departments of the peninsula? The question comes with new sharpness as the topic of a study on abuse is included in the list of discussions of the General Assembly of Italian Bishops, held in the suburbs of Rome from Monday 23 May until Friday 27 May. As Pope Francis opened the meeting with a closed speech without a report, the victims and their supporters increased their pressure on members of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI).

→ analysis. Sexual abuse in the church: Do Italian bishops raise omerta?

This action begins with an open letter from the Church of Italy also (also the Italian Church), an ordination of associations born in February to give weight to these demands. “We demand the full cooperation of the Italian Church in an independent investigation, conducted by reliable and objective specialists, which sheds light on the abuses committed by the clergy in Italy, defends the message. We request that the archive be opened and made available (…)As well as establishing effective channels of cooperation with Italian state institutions. »

book from archive

For signatories, shedding light on the past must be accompanied by a commitment to make up. “We ask that the victims and their families are heard, welcomed and compensated.”as they demand “Repeal the prescription for sexual assault” Or that requirements related to volunteers working with minors “Extended to the clergy and laity active in the Church”.

→ Read. Sexual abuse in the Church: in Italy, associations unite to “tear down the Omerta wall”

Perhaps more than this open letter, it is a book to be published on Thursday, May 26 that will bolster pressure on the bishops: entitled Agnus Dei, Gli abusi sessuali del clero in Italy (“Agnus Dei, Sexual Abuse of the Clergy in Italy”), the work compiled from the archive Reti Laposuwhich is a small association that lists the various statements about the cases of priests’ commissions and acts of management by bishops. “A very disturbing picture emerges, and the Church does not seem to budge,” Prepare the back cover.

In addition to the data used, the book’s strength comes from the personality of its authors. In the front row appears Lucetta Scaraffia, who is best known for co-founding and directing until 2019 Gives Kizza Mundothe feminine complement of Osservatore Romano, Official Journal of the Vatican. It was notable under her leadership that the Annex had published prominent articles on abuses against nuns.

Possibility of independent investigation

Another author of the book: Franca Giansoldati. This Italian Vatican works El Misaghiru, the main newspaper of the city of Rome. Pope Francis likes to repeat that he reads this daily, and thus arouses particular interest in the journalist’s writings. The trio of authors was completed by Anna Foa, from the prestigious Sapienza University.

“It is not an obscene book, and it is not an anti-church bookexplains Franca Giansoldati insistently Cross. On the contrary, he should serve the church to give impetus so that these facts are not repeated again. » Arguing for independent study including a historical component – essential to “Better understand reality to face this plague” – However, the Vatican says she is skeptical about upcoming decisions. “I fear that the bishops will choose to conduct an independent investigation based on data from the past few years alone.”

Selection of the new head of the Independent Electoral Commission

This topic is on the agenda of this already crucial assembly, with the appointment of the new head of the IEC, according to a procedure specific to Italy: the bishops had to vote on three names, including the Pope to choose . This action took place at the opening of the assembly and resulted in the appointment of Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, who was unanimously considered the chief favourite.

→ Read. Matteo Zuppi, Cardinal close to Francis at the head of the Italian bishops

Known for his commitment to social rather than doctrinal issues, the Archbishop of Bologna was a negotiator for the Sant’Egidio community in the Mozambique peace process in the 1990s, and had to be a cardinal indeed – a condition Francis set for this. Mandate – but above all to be seen as particularly compatible with the current papacy.

Matteo Zuppi is known as a “street priest”, and it seems self-evident that he fits with the image of bishops favoring an investigation into sexual assault. But to what extent and according to the modalities this remains to be fully determined … even before the rest of the episcopate is persuaded to embark on this path.


Last President of the Italian Episcopal Conference

Cardinal Matteo Zupi succeeds Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti. This position has been held by the Archbishop of Perugia since 2017, he is 80 years old and does not appear to have developed a special relationship with the Pope.

Before him, it was Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco who presided over the CEI for ten years. Close to Benedict XVI, the person who was Archbishop of Genoa until 2020 was known as an intellectual with an interest in doctrine and morals. It was “Papabelle” in 2013.

From 1991 to 2007, Vice Cardinal of the Diocese of Rome Camilo Ruini directed the IEC. He, too, was close to the Pope during his tenure, John Paul II.

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