Catholic leaders meet at Vatican conference to discuss pedophilia

Pope Benedict XVI

Bishops from 100 countries and the leaders of 33 religious orders are in Rome this week for a four day Vatican conference to address and prevent pedophilia in the clergy.

According to a report from Newstalk, the conference will announce the launch of a child protection centre in Germany to combat sexual abuse by the clergy worldwide.

But victims' groups are unconvinced of the protection center's actual reach and have slammed the entire conference as nothing more than a public relations stunt.

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Even the title of the gathering 'Towards Healing and Renewal' has offended many victims organizations, who ask if it refers to those abused by priests or to the Church's damaged public standing. Organizers counter that the conference, which is hosted by Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University, will address the incidences of sexual abuse in the US, Ireland, Brazil, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

The conference will take place ahead of a May deadline set by the Vatican for all Catholic bishops around the world to develop new procedures to assist abuse victims, and to educate church communities about the protection of minors.

Marie Collins, an Irish victim of clerical abuse and longtime critic of the Vatican's handling of the crisis, will speak at the conference, as will Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top prosecutor on sex abuse cases.

The program will reportedly hear from bishops from Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines, representing the world’s three largest Catholic nations and also from South Africa, where clerical abuse in each nation will be discussed.