March 31, 2021

When two brothers told their family members that they were abused by their parish priest as children, the faith of the family was severely tested. In 2016, their sister, Jennifer Wortham, wrote a letter to Pope Francis sharing how abuse destroyed her family but she was ready to forgive. She told the pope he played a key role in her return to the faith. “I feel my reconciliation with the Church was inspired by you, your Holiness. The deep sense of sorrow and anguish you have expressed at the past transgressions of the Church, and your intention to bring mercy into the world, have touched me deeply,” she wrote.

Two days after she faxed the letter to Rome, Wortham was invited to meet Pope Francis during the General Assembly. In this brief encounter, Jennifer said, “I realized the Church was indeed on a new path, that he would to all he could to right the wrongs of the past.”  

When she returned home from the trip, Wortham realized that her visit with the pope was just the beginning. As an expert in public health, she wanted to share with others the combination of her personal experience, her professional expertise, and her belief that faith plays a critical role in the healing of survivors of abuse. On April 8-10, these three areas of her life are coming together in a landmark global conference she is chairing: Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse. They symposium will consist of daily hour-long round table discussions and presentations by global leaders and experts on the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse. 

This interfaith and interdisciplinary program, a partnership among the Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors, The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America, and others under the leadership of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, features policy and public health experts from all over the world and diverse faith leaders. 

"Spiritual and physical healing go hand in hand," said Cardinal Seán O'Malley, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. "That is why all religious leaders, child welfare advocates and health professionals must not only seek the best training, but be accountable for building interdisciplinary bridges to address the global crisis of child sexual abuse together." Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, will be presenting on the role of faith leaders in prevention and healing.

This event will promote the ongoing effort to establish April 8th as a World Day for Prevention and Healing from Child Sexual Abuse. Members of the media, health care professionals, child welfare advocates, and religious leaders are invited to recognize this day and register for this landmark conference. Registration is free and open to the public. 

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