A safeguarding policy was yesterday published by the Diocese of Gibraltar to protect children, young persons and vulnerable adults involved in church activities.
The 62-page document titled “Safeguarding Children, Young Persons and Vulnerable Adults” is now available to read on the Diocese’s website.
At a press conference held in the Bishop’s Parlour at the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned, Bishop Carmel Zammit said this document to “protect from and prevent abuse”.
It comes after Pope Francis encouraged every Diocese to provide its own safeguarding policy.
A committee of professionals was formed in January 2018, and the policy has been published some 10 months later.
The document will provide guidance on acceptable behaviour and practices and the machinery for dealing with allegations and concerns including bullying, verbal, physical or sexual abuse.
All complaints or allegations can be put forward to the email address provided within the document, and will be immediately processed by the Safeguarding Officer Alan Gordon.
Bishop Zammit said: “When I was appointed as Bishop two years ago, one of the things that I looked at was the need to have a policy in place that deals with safeguarding or protection of the vulnerable and how to deal with allegations of abuse.”
“We have published this document which provides a policy to provide the full protection for children and young persons and vulnerable adults.”
“We are quite excited and quite happy that we have reached this stage.”
“Gibraltar prides itself of being a caring society, and this document confirms that we want the best for our children and for those who are vulnerable.”
The policy is based on the principle of zero tolerance in keeping with the Christian commitment to protect the weak, Bishop Zammit added.
The document itself has drawn from the work of the Archdiocese of Liverpool, with adjustments to reflect the requirements for the Catholic Church in Gibraltar.
A Safeguarding Commission was also appointed to organise and enforce the policy, while two subgroups have been established to deal with training and allegations management.
Bishop Zammit said: “Safeguarding has, as its principle aims, protecting children and vulnerable adults and also protecting those who are engaged in pastoral activities with children and vulnerable adults, so it’s protecting both sides – those who are vulnerable and those helping out.”
Charles Gomez was appointed as Chairman of the Safeguarding Commission, whose other members include Monsignor John Pardo and Brenda Cortes.
Msgr Pardo added: “The idea of the document is to try and have a good standard that is positive, that gives confidence, that creates a safe environment and that has accountability because that is good practise in general.”
Training sessions will be held for those involved in the various church groups who work with children, young person or vulnerable adults, and the first group to benefit from this training was the clergy.
The policy document can be found on http://catholic.gi/safeguarding-policy/