21 November 2021 Statement by Bishop Noel Treanor for Safeguarding Sunday

SAFEGUARDING SUNDAY 2021

FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING – 21th NOVEMBER 2021

 Bishop Noel Treanor

This year Safeguarding Sunday in our diocese coincides with the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the liturgical calendar.

As we step out of this liturgical year and into the season of Advent on Sunday next, we are conscious that as a diocese, together with all dioceses in Ireland and throughout the world, we have been invited into, called into, shaping and building a Church community that is synodal

For this purpose, Pope Francis has launched a synodal process of prayerful conversation, discussion, and of listening under the impulse of the Holy Spirit around a set of subjects.  

The purpose of this project is to enable us as Christians individually and collectively to re-shape and renew every parish community as a vibrant centre of the Church which makes God’s love for all a living reality, especially the needy and all who suffer. 

As we walk this synodal pathway in our diocese, our commitment to the ministry of Safeguarding will remain a central pillar of this synodal process.  There can be no equivocation nor dilution of our commitment to work and sustain vigilance on this front of the outreach of our diocesan and parish services : the safety of children, of young people and persons at risk is paramount.

The safeguarding policies for children and adults who are vulnerable must be maintained in every situation.

The ongoing pastoral care of survivors of clerical sex abuse is a permanent and vital area of the Safeguarding ministry of our diocese. We still hear media reports of sexual abuse of children by clergy or Church personnel, of the maltreatment of mothers and their babies in homes associated with the Church, as indeed of abuse in other sectors of society. Behind all these media reports, the lives of flesh and blood persons are deeply scarred, even destroyed.  What are we to do?

Beyond the apologies that have been offered and made – and on this occasion I repeat them on behalf of the Church – we must continue to learn the art of empathetic recognition of the damage and harm done to those who have suffered abuse. We must do our utmost to accompany survivors of abuse with the compassionate response and support that each victim needs, often provided through counselling services such as those offered by Towards Healing and by Towards Peace which seeks to heal the damage done to survivor’s faith in God. 

As a diocese we remain committed to doing all we can to improve our pastoral response to the needs of each individual victim. Every victim will have been affected by the reports recently referred to in the media. Some may have been disturbed to the point of being re-traumatised. Supporting them with pastoral care has to be a top priority for all of us as followers of Christ, the one in whom God was unjustly victimised, crucified and died on the Cross.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated periods of ‘lockdown’ brought much of life to a halt, including the galaxy of activities that make up the life of our parishes.

However, thanks to the ingenuity of the Living Church Office staff and of the Living Youth team, during the lockdowns contact was maintained with young people, and not least with those at risk.  

I wish to thank all who have worked so diligently over the past year – in the diocesan Safeguarding Office, in the Living Church Office and in the Living Youth team – to develop procedures and guidelines to ensure the personal safety of children and youth in online activities. I am very aware of the unstinting voluntary support given by so many throughout the diocese – I cannot thank you enough. 

Many have devoted hours of their time pro bono to this work. The diocesan community, its parishes and families, and indeed society are in your debt, for you have modelled good practice and sharpened awareness for modelling codes of good governance for personal and inter-personal safety in the cyber world. 

On the ground, terra firma, the backbone of Safeguarding is ensured, made present and carried out by our Parish Safeguarding Committees.  I cannot express in words how much we all rely on you and how much we appreciate all you have done to promote the Safeguarding message in our parishes and Pastoral Communities over the years and particularly during the difficult time of the pandemic.  Your commitment deserves the whole-hearted support of the faithful, Religious and clergy of the diocese.  

Over the years, as a local Church in the field of Safeguarding, we have built good and mutually supportive working relations with the statutory and voluntary sectors, with the PSNI and with Social Services.   During the summer months of this year the Diocesan Safeguarding Committee, chaired by Amanda Stewart, invited various diocesan organisations and statutory and voluntary bodies to contribute to the development of a new three-year Diocesan Strategic Plan for Safeguarding.  Representatives of those bodies are present this afternoon and I wish to thank you all for the ideas, suggestions and proposals you made on foot of your vast experience in the work of Safeguarding. The elaboration of this three-year Strategic Plan has enabled the diocesan Safeguarding Committee to develop and update its work in conjunction with the Safeguarding and Vetting staff at the diocesan Safeguarding Office.

On this feast day of Christ, King of all who suffer and of all who accompany the suffering, I thank all who work, assist, support the totality of our diocesan Safeguarding outreach and ministry centrally and throughout our parishes. We are so grateful that in this we are enriched by the input and membership in our services of sisters and brothers in Christ from fellow Churches and traditions and also the from the statutory and voluntary sectors, as I mentioned.  

Let us pray for that child-like openness of mind and heart, alluded to by the author of the gospel according to St Mark, so that we may live, act and ever be inspired by the values of the Good News of the kingdom of God.       

Amen.