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IADC Director addresses Vatican conference on priestly formation

Father Hans Zollner, S.J., IADC Director, addressed the International Conference on Priestly Formation hosted by the Vatican Dicasteries for the Clergy, Evangelization, and Eastern Churches.

The Feb. 6-10 conference, which reflected on the theme, “Rekindle the Gift of God That Is Within You,” was held at the Auditorium Conciliazione and attended by about 850 religious and lay people from over 60 countries. 

According to the Dicastery for the Clergy, the purpose of the conference was to “initiate a shared process with local Churches, in order to strengthen the ongoing formation and accompaniment of priests.” 

Among the considerations that were discussed at the conference were the results of a recent survey sent to bishops’ conferences around the world as well as contributions from the conference participants. 

Father Hans spoke during the afternoon session of the conference’s second day, on “Structures and Integral Formation Processes and Prevention of Abuse.”

In his talk, Father Hans reflected on how abuse prevention and Safeguarding must be an integral part of priestly formation, as well as to “understand how this is part of following Christ in his suffering and resurrection.”

“Formation can make a real difference in one’s vocational journey,” he said. However, ongoing formation should also “match the real needs so that the priestly vocation can be lived out in a sound, healthy, effective, and holy way.”

The topic of abuse, Father Hans said, “is more and more present everywhere” and what is needed in the Church is a “change of mentality” that faces the reality of abuse while applying Safeguarding measures to prevent it from happening. 

Citing the Dicastery for the Clergy’s guidelines for priestly formation – “Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis sacerdotalis” from 2016, Father Hans reminded the conference participants that “the greatest attention must be given to the theme of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.” 

Formators must not only ensure that those seeking admission to a seminary or house of formation, or Holy Orders “have not been involved in any way with any crime or problematic behavior in this area” but must also “ensure that those who have had painful experiences in this area receive special and suitable accompaniment,” he quoted the Holy See document. 

“Specific lessons, seminars or courses on the protection of minors are to be included in the programs of initial and ongoing formation,” Father Hans continued. “Adequate information must be provided in an appropriate fashion, which also gives attention to areas of dealing with possible exploitation and violence, such as, for example, the trafficking of minors, child labor, and the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults.”

Father Hans highlighted the work of the Institute of Anthropology (IADC) in promoting education and formation for the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable persons. 

“Through education, the Institute is committed to promoting contexts where all humans can live in freedom and without fear from violation of their dignity, and receive the care they need and deserve,” he said.