On 16th and 17th of June 2021, the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) organised a safeguarding workshop for Major Superiors in Lusaka, Zambia.
The objective of the workshop was to appraise major superiors of their leadership role in safeguarding and to update them on current trends and practices. Their support in the implementation of safeguarding standards in all Jesuit works and communities across the conference was also requested. In line with the Universal Apostolic Preferences, implementing these standards also means helping in propagating similar standards in the Church and the society at large.
Fr. Mike Lewis, S.J and Fr. Cristián Del Campo, S.J gave in-depth presentations on the role of leadership in keeping safeguarding standards drawing from their long experiences as major superiors during times of crisis. The two recommended some important guidelines and pillars of safeguarding such as a change of culture, transparency as opposed to cover up, pastoral care for victims, the need for preparedness and the courage to undertake the necessary reforms and action. Other speakers at the workshop included Ms. Beatrice Mumbi, the safeguarding Coordinator for JCAM, and Fr. Peter Carroll, SJ, the Child Protection Officer (CPO) for the Southern Africa Province and a member of the JCAM Safeguarding Commission. Both gave perspectives on safeguarding actions in JCAM within the past five years and helped Major Superiors see the possibilities and tools available to them at the level of JCAM and the Society.
Major superiors also looked at the safeguarding standards emphasised by the Magisterium of the Church, especially the recent developments contained in the Vademecum published by the Vatican in January 2020. Accompanying guidelines issued by Fr. General were discussed for purposes of increasing clarity of their implementation. The concept of ministerial responsibility which requires a superior to take responsibility for the mistakes of a junior was emphasized. Similarly, the revision of Book VI of the 1983 Code of Canon Law was highlighted especially the element relating to the removal of the discretion of bishops, and by implication major superiors, to prosecute cases.
Another highlight of the workshop was the reflection on the letter of Fr. General of 13 May 2021 on the ‘Implementation of Minimum Standards of Safeguarding in the Society of Jesus’. Major superiors acknowledged the urgency of implementing these minimum standards which include policy guidelines, protocols for case management and allegations and formation of Jesuits and lay mission partners. They also committed to complying with the stipulations of the letter that asks for the setting up of an auditing system by July 2022. Additionally, major superiors recognised their primary responsibility in the promoting of a healthy ethos of protection.
At the end of the two-day meeting, the safeguarding programme across the Conference has received strong impetus for leadership. Major Superiors resolved to keep the safeguarding agenda alive in all communities and apostolates especially as one of the major decisions taken was to appoint delegates with a mandate to monitor and evaluate safeguarding action in each province and region.
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