Jesuit safeguarding expert steps down from papal commission

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted Jesuit Father Hans Zollner's request to no longer be a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

A leading safeguarding expert and a member of the papal commission since its establishment in 2014, Father Zollner had asked the pope "to be relieved of his duties as a member," Boston Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, president of the commission, said in a written statement March 29.

"Father Hans told me that he came to this decision after reflecting on his recent appointment as consultant for safeguarding to the Diocese of Rome," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, papal vicar for Rome, announced March 3 that he appointed Father Zollner to be a consultant for the diocese's new office dedicated to safeguarding minors and vulnerable people. The priest is also director of the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University.

Cardinal O'Malley said that in light of Father Zollner's new appointment "and all his other responsibilities, he has asked to be excused from his place on the commission and the Holy Father has accepted his request with the deepest of thanks for his many years of service."

Since the commission was founded, the cardinal said, "Father Hans has been an abiding presence over the years as we have seen our commission grow and find its way as the center for safeguarding throughout the church. He has helped to shape and implement many of the projects and programs that found their origin in the commission’s deliberations," especially the 2019 child protection summit at the Vatican for presidents of bishops' conferences, representatives of religious orders and heads of Vatican offices."He has become an ambassador for safeguarding and will continue to be a constant presence in this important work," the cardinal said. "We look forward to continuing our cooperation with Father Hans in our common commitment to making the church a safe home for all."