The head of Vietnam's bishops, who attended the recent Vatican child protection summit, has called on local Catholics to work together to combat clerical sex abuse. Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh
, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, said some 194 participants at the February summit
, not least Pope Francis, showed bravery in facing up to the challenge. The archbishop, writing March 1 on a church website, said he was deeply moved by victims who maintained their strong faith while wanting the Church to listen to their accounts of suffering. The universal Church was ready to tackle abuse cases in a spirit of Christian charity, he added. Archbishop Linh, 69, noted that sex abuse occurred against a background of different cultures and traditions around the world, so it was difficult to find a "comprehensive solution" to the problem. A panacea needed to take account of such differences, with local bishops' conferences being given more power to deal with clerical child sex abuse. He noted that the problem of abuse had not arisen from the Vatican, Western churches or a particular region, but was global in nature. For this reason, governments, legislative structures and political systems should all be involved in responding. He said the Vatican summit provided an opportunity to strengthen church communion in the fight to protect minors. Archbishop Linh called on local Catholics
to keep calm, willingly listen to victims and "care for abuse offenders". The prelate also asked them to trust in the "instruction and leadership" of Pope Francis as a symbol of unity in the Catholic Church. A senior priest from southern Ho Chi Minh City told ucanews.com that he appreciated Archbishop Linh’s suggestions. He said sexual abuse of minors, nuns and women had surely been inflicted by some local priests because the crime exists commonly in a society where people ignored human values to satisfy sexual desires. "Abuse cases in the country have not come to light because culturally Vietnamese people hide them so as to uphold the honor of victims, priests, families, parishes and communities," the priest said. Some parents banned their daughters who had sexual relations with priests from going public and even threatened people who knew about such cases. The priest warned that holding sex abusers to account would take time as people raised their voices to protect victims and prevent the scale of problems that had occurred in some Western churches.
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He said the recent Vatican abuse summit would set alarm bells ringing for the Church in Vietnam. It was important for Vietnamese Catholics to become well informed on theological issues involved and the plight of victims. The priest said the local Church should also give guidelines on "pastoral healing" to victims and not simply transfer clerical offenders in order to hide abuses.