I READ the following story in the UK magazine The Tablet of 21 January 2017 under the View from Rome.

Inside the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace hangs an icon of the Virgin Mary holding a finger to her lips. Titled "Our Lady of Silence," it was placed there on the instructions of Pope Francis. It was a not so subtle hint that those who work for the Church should not gossip, but it could equally be seen as an image for the way the Church has responded to clerical sexual abuse.

A news report in Rome reveals that roughly 1,200 abuse cases have been filed with the Holy See during Francis’ papacy, maintaining a depressingly similar pace to the last couple of years of Benedict XVI’ term in office.

Pope Francis has called for a zero tolerance approach to abuse cases in the Church. He set up a commission to safeguard children and put new rules in place that will enable him to dismiss bishops who are guilty of covering up abuses. He is also tough on the clericalist culture that protects abusive priests and he has just appointed a new Cardinal who leads the papal safeguarding body as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department that handles abuse cases.

Unlike Bishops in the United States or in parts of Europe, Francis has not personally been at the severe reprimand stage of the abuse crisis and he has tended a case-by-case approach, rather than establish firm procedures. While this makes sense when, say, dealing with divorced and remarried people, when it comes to dealing with abusers, experience shows that standard protocols and procedures, applicable across the board, are essential.

On another note, there is also much talk about who President Donald Trump will name as his Ambassador to the Holy See, a sensitive posting given the public clashes between Mr. Trump and Francis over migration. The job will involve some tightrope walking. While the Pope has become a global leader of progressive causes, Trump campaigned on an anti-migrant and protectionist platform.

Whoever is appointed will need to have the ear of the President while understanding how the Vatican operates. So who might be in the running?

Under this presidency, however, anything could happen. A wild card candidate, like the former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, should not be ruled out. There has even been speculation that Pope John Paul II’ biographer George Weigel could be in the running.

Some argue that the Holy See should be like the United Nations but then the problem will be speaking English as its working language, The Vatican is in Italy and the Pope is Bishop of Rome. Speaking Italian with an English accent can have unexpected benefits.

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