“We invite all of you to commit very responsibly to this very important aim of promoting the wellbeing and protection of minors.” Focolare President Maria Voce and Co-president Jesús Morán addressed these words in their letter, sent on 27th March, to all the members of the Focolare Movement in the world after the first international meeting of those in the Movement who are responsible for the protection of minors. (See letter attached)
The meeting, held from 14th – 17th March at Castel Gandolfo (Rome), was attended by 162 participants from 38 countries and all continents. It was an opportunity to take stock of the Focolare’s commitment to the wellbeing and protection of every person. This commitment has always existed in the Movement and can be seen in the many training events, initiatives and projects organised all over the world to promote child and adolescent wellbeing.
Guidelines and commissions for safeguarding.
In April 2014 the Movement adopted “Guidelines for the Promotion of the Wellbeing and the Protection of Minors” (see the introduction to the Guidelines attached) and in 2015 a Central Commission for the Promotion of the Wellbeing and the Protection of Minors (CO.BE.TU (in Italian)) was established. Around the world, local commissions have been created in various countries or there are well qualified people responsible for this role. Their task is “to protect, but also to promote formation activities for our members, especially those who work with minors.”
The commissions also have the task of receiving reports of alleged abuse and undertaking a process of verification within the Movement. Maria Voce and Jesús Morán explain in the letter that over the years about 20 reports have been received and they communicate that, “It deeply pains us to recognise that, also in our own large family of the Focolare, some cases of abuse regarding minors caused by people who belong to the Movement, or by people who have taken part in meetings organised by us, have occurred. Most of these episodes occurred in the remote past (even over 20 years ago), but unfortunately some have occurred in the recent past. Consecrated members of the Movement were also involved in these.”
The President and Co-president affirm with deep gratitude that the establishment of the Central Commission and the local commissions has helped not only to facilitate the reporting of alleged cases of abuse, but also “to understand how to do justice to the victims, how to accompany them and their families and what provisions to make within the Movement regarding the authors of the abuses, in addition of course to the judicial procedures envisaged by the laws of the respective countries.”
Maria Voce and Jesús Morán re-affirmed the Movement’s zero tolerance approach to any form of violence, abuse, mistreatment or bullying, carried out directly on through the Web, towards any person, with particular attention to minors and vulnerable adults. They go on to explain that, “This means reporting to the local commissions and to the Central Commission every suspicion of abuse or violence.” They consider it to be “a real temptation if anyone thinks of not reporting cases for the good of the Movement, to avoid scandal or protect someone’s good name.”
In particular they add that, “Every single case represents a deep purification for the Movement. We accept it with humility and deep compassion for those who – perhaps through our lack of attention – have undergone indescribable traumas.”
It is a worldwide commitment, not limited only to the members of the Focolare Movement and that, as Maria Voce and Jesús Morán observe in their conclusion to the letter, should be ever more open to the whole of humankind: “We cannot fail to make our own the cry of pain of all the children and teenagers in the world. … It is part of our vocation to go towards them. That is why we must be on the front line in defending those who are weaker, wherever they are victims of any kind of violence or abuse.”