My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Every year I present to the community an annual message regarding the Protecting God’s Children (PGC) program within our eparchy. This message is to be received by all the community through church newsletters, bulletins, announcements, and parish websites. It intends to show that our eparchy complies with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Our churches have a duty in maintaining a safe environment for all people of our community. We are devoted to providing outreach and healing to any person who has been a victim of sexual abuse currently or in the past, and to cooperate with civil authorities and be transparent if such allegations come forth.
We have established a Safety Environment Office located at the chancery to provide outreach and to insure that all parishes are conforming to the Charter by obtaining criminal background checks and providing PGC Training workshops for clergy, personnel, and volunteers who come into contact with children and elderly. Classes are also established for all the children enrolled in our parish programs teaching child safety material. The training program offered by our eparchy for both children and adults is the Virtus Program. I have personally reviewed this program and found it to be in accordance with catholic morals and teachings. As such this letter is a promulgation letter to formally inform you that I have approved the Virtus program to be taught in our Safety Environment programs.
In our efforts to further commit ourselves to the protection of our children, we have hired a new full-time communications and safety environments director. Our former safety environments coordinator, Mrs. Janan Senawi, will now serve as our dedicated Victim Assistance Advocate, working with survivors of sexual abuse, provide healing, and ensuring that allegations are brought to the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction.
For the past several years, Mrs. Senawi has done an exceptional job serving our eparchy—working first with Bishop Emeritus Ibrahim Ibrahim, and later with myself—to ensure we were always in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People since its creation in 2002. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank and recognize Mrs. Senawi for her dedication and service to God’s work.
This year, Pope Francis signed a document titled ‘Vos Estis Lux Mundi’. The document defines new norms for the whole Church against those who abuse or cover up abuse. These new laws went into effect on June 1, 2019, and includes a legal obligation for clerics and religious to report abuse (as well as its cover-up) and helps ensure that bishops and religious superiors are held accountable for their actions. It also mandates that each diocese or eparchy must have a system set up that allows the public to submit reports of abuse easily.
In response to the Holy Father’s document, we created a section on our website to keep you informed of our ongoing commitment to protect all those in our care and allow individuals to submit reports of abuse more easily. We have also made it easier for you to find a schedule of upcoming PGC workshops, policies regarding sexual abuse of minors, and the code of conduct for clergy, staff, and volunteers. I invite you to visit our website at chaldeanchurch.org/protect.
I want to take this opportunity to encourage all parents to take active roles in educating and safeguarding their children. As a church, we plan to continue our mission by keeping our children safe while they are in our parishes and institutions. As your bishop, I will ensure that we continue to adhere to these rules and build upon the foundation of the existing policies that we have implemented for the past several years.
Lastly, I ask and encourage any person who has been sexually abused by anyone of the church to come forth and meet with me personally to report the abuse, whether it occurred in the past or present. You may also choose to report the abuse to our Diocesan Victim Assistance Advocate Mrs. Janan Senawi by calling the special confidential reporting line at (248) 354-3066.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Francis Y. Kalabat
Bishop of St. Thomas the Apostle
Chaldean Catholic Eparchy, U.S.A