Knights of Malta will receive safeguarding assistance for staff, volunteers

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, director of Rome's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care at the Pontifical Gregorian University, looks on as Fra' Alessandro de Franciscis, grand hospitaller of the Sovereign Order of Malta, and Jesuit Father Mark A. Lewis, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, prepare to sign a memorandum of understanding to promote formation in safeguarding Dec. 15, 2023, in Rome. (CNS photo/ courtesy of the Institute of Anthropology - IADC)

ROME (CNS) – The Knights of Malta have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology in Rome to receive assistance in promoting the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable persons.

The knights will also appoint at least one official in charge of safeguarding and the implementation of safeguarding guidelines as well as begin formation courses for its staff and volunteers, according to the agreement.

The memorandum was signed by Jesuit Father Mark A. Lewis, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Fra' Alessandro de Franciscis, grand hospitaller of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, commonly known as the Knights of Malta, in Rome Dec. 15. Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the institute, was also present at the signing.

The Order of Malta is active in 120 countries helping those in need with medical, social and humanitarian services. They are also active in areas affected by armed conflict or natural disasters, providing assistance, medicine and basic care.

The Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care is an academic institute dedicated to training experts in safeguarding and in the care of survivors; it seeks to prioritize the care of all human persons, especially children and the most vulnerable and marginalized.

According to the five-year agreement, the institute will provide support and advice "for the purpose of drafting guidelines, policies, codes of conduct and safety concepts that will provide instructions for all volunteers and employees" of the Knights of Malta, as well as provide formation programs that "professionally and adequately relate to victims of sexual abuse and their families and to act in favor of the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable people."

The Knights of Malta will "appoint official(s) in charge of safeguarding and the implementation of the guidelines" and will "activate formation courses aimed at its staff and volunteers," the agreement says.

Fra' de Franciscis said, "The agreement signed today is the starting point of a multifaceted program of listening and training initiatives for our members, volunteers and employees, to safeguard our beneficiaries and all children and vulnerable people," according to a press release by the institute Dec. 15.

Fr. Lewis said, this kind of cooperation "will facilitate the care and protection of minors in a more developed and educated way in conjunction with the many important health and welfare outreaches undertaken by the Knights of Malta."

Fr. Zollner said the institute is "glad and honored that the Knights of Malta have asked us to assist them in their commitment to safeguarding by means of our competences in education and formation. We are very much looking forward to collaborating at different levels in support of the universal mission of the knights."

The institute has already signed a number of agreements with religious congregations, dioceses and educational institutions around the world, particularly regarding its online-based education program. The institute's agreement with the knights is its first with an international organization of its kind and the first that offers additional support in assisting with training and safeguarding guidelines beyond virtual instruction.



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