VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican's upcoming conference on families in Ireland will feature a seminar on child protection, after the church's sex abuse scandal devastated the credibility of the Catholic Church in the country.
Pope Francis' top adviser on protecting children from pedophiles, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, will head the seminar and survivors are expected to participate, said Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican's laity and family office.
He told a Vatican press conference that details would be announced later this month.
Francis is widely expected to travel to Dublin to attend the final days of the Aug. 21-26 World Meeting of Families, where the sex abuse scandal is likely to play out given the scale of abuse and cover-up in the country.
The Vatican refused to cooperate with three Irish government-ordered investigations from 2005 to 2009 which documented the rapes, molestations and other abuse suffered by thousands of Irish children by priests in their parishes and by nuns and brothers in boarding schools and orphanages.
Irish bishops did not report a single case to police until 1996 after victims began to sue the church.
Francis' own record in holding negligent bishops accountable will likely be a subject of debate given the controversy over his just-ended trip to South America. While in Chile, Francis accused victims of slander for having accused a bishop of covering up for a notorious pedophile priest. Francis strongly defended the bishop, whom he appointed to head a diocese over the objections of Chile's other bishops.
The pope's expected visit may also be uncomfortable for other reasons: Ireland is expected to hold a referendum on lifting its constitutional ban on abortion two to three months before the family meeting. The Catholic Church has opposed the move, but its voice in the once staunchly Roman Catholic country has been weakened by the abuse scandal and overall secularization of Irish society.
Ireland in 2015 legalized gay marriage over the opposition of the church.
Farrell said the main theme of the conference seminars would be exploring different aspects of Francis' 2016 document on families, "The Joy of Love." The document has split the church over its cautious opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion. Farrell stressed that the Dublin seminars, workshops and other activities would focus on the document's teachings in their entirety.
This version corrects that the meeting begins Aug. 21, not Aug. 22.