Guidelines for the Protection of Children and  Vulnerable Persons

Vicariate of the Vatican City

Guidelines for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Persons

March 26, 2019

Pope Francis talks with children as he meets with priests, religious men and women and the ecumenical Council of Churches at the cathedral in Rabat, Morocco, March 31, 2019. PAUL HARING/CNS

THE Holy Father Francis

  • having regard to the Chirograph of St. John Paul II for spiritual care in the Vatican City, dated January 14th 1991;
  • having regard to Law No. CCXCVII, on the protection of minors and vulnerable persons, of 26 March 2019;
  • awaited the particular nature of pastoral activities carried out within the Vatican City State;
  • wishing to introduce specific measures within the Vatican City Vicariate for the care and protection of minors and vulnerable persons;

has adopted the following



Safeguarding minors and vulnerable people is an integral part of the Church’s mission. The Vicariate of the Vatican City, entrusted with the pastoral care of the faithful residing in the State, as well as in the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, participates fully in this mission, firmly rooted in the conviction that each person has a unique value as created in the image and likeness of God. In fact, “the effective protection of minors and the commitment to guarantee them human and spiritual development in keeping with the dignity of the human person are an integral part of the Gospel message that the Church and all its members are called to spread in the world.” (Chirograph for the establishment of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, of 22 March 2014)

A. Scope of application

Canon law and the legislation of the Vatican City State regarding the protection of minors and vulnerable persons must be scrupulously respected.

  • The policies and procedures contained in these guidelines are aimed at establishing and maintaining an ecclesial community that is respectful and aware of the rights and needs of children and vulnerable persons, attentive to the risks of exploitation, sexual abuse and mistreatment, in the context of the activities carried out within the Vicariate of the Vatican City. They are addressed to:
  • the canons, the coadjutors and the clergy of St. Peter’s Basilica;
  • parish priests and assistants in the parishes of San Pietro and Sant’Anna in the Vatican;
  • chaplains and spiritual assistants who have received a pastoral assignment from the Vicar General;
  • the priests, deacons and educators of the Preseminario San Pio X;
  • members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life who have permanent residence in the Vatican City State;
  • all those who work for any reason, individual or associated, within the ecclesial community of the Vicariate of the Vatican City.

For the purposes of these guidelines, ” vulnerable persons ” are equated with ” minors “.

B.  The referent for the protection of minors

The Vicar General appoints a Referent for the protection of minors who coordinates and verifies the implementation of these guidelines so that, within the Vicariate, a community that is respectful and aware of the rights and needs of children is maintained, as well as careful to prevent any form of violence or abuse. The Coordinator will coordinate the prevention and training activities of pastoral workers and will take particular care to welcome and accompany those who claim to have been victims of exploitation, sexual abuse or mistreatment, as well as their families.

The Referrer makes use of the professional support of the Accompanying Service, managed by the Directorate of Health and Hygiene of the Governorate, and of the Labor Office of the Apostolic See.

C.  Pastoral workers

  1. In the choice of pastoral workers, the suitability of the candidates to interact with the minors must be ascertained, through an adequate investigation and verifying also the absence of prejudicial judicial charges.
  2. Pastoral care workers must receive adequate training on the risks of exploitation, sexual abuse and child abuse, as well as on the means to identify and prevent these offenses. They are also required to participate in training programs organized by the Labor Office of the Apostolic See, in conjunction with the Accompanying Service.
  3. Occasional collaborators are informed about the behaviors to be taken in interaction with minors, as well as about prohibited behaviors.

D.  Pastoral activities

  1. In pastoral activities involving minors, the protection of these must be given priority. Therefore, in the course of their activities, pastoral workers must:
  • use prudence and respect in relating to minors;
  • provide them with positive reference models;
  • always be visible to others when they are in the presence of minors;
  • report to the responsible any potentially dangerous behavior;
  • respect the sphere of confidentiality of the child;
  • inform the parents or guardians of the proposed activities and the related organizational methods;
  • use due prudence in communicating with minors, also by telephone and on social networks.
  1. It is strictly forbidden for pastoral workers:
  • Inflict corporal punishments of any kind;
  • establish a preferential relationship with an individual minor;
  • leave a child in a potentially dangerous situation due to his or her mental or physical safety;
  • turn to a minor in an offensive manner or engage in inappropriate or sexually suggestive behavior;
  • discriminate against a minor or a group of children;
  • ask a child to keep a secret;
  • give gifts to a minor discriminating the rest of the group;
  • photograph or film a minor without the written consent of his parents or guardians;
  • publish or disseminate, via the web or social network, images that recognize a child in a recognizable way without the consent of parents or guardians.
  1. Pastoral activities are carried out in rooms suitable for the age and stage of development of minors. As far as possible, pastoral workers must take particular care to ensure that minors do not enter or remain in places hidden from sight or out of control.
  2. Any inappropriate behavior or bullying that may occur among minors, even if they do not integrate the details of a crime, must be dealt with promptly, with balance, prudence and delicacy, immediately informing the parents or guardians.

E.  Informed consent of parents or guardians

  1. The written consent of parents or guardians for the participation of minors in pastoral activities is indispensable. Parents or guardians receive information on the proposed activity, as well as on the names and contact details of the managers.
  2. The written consent of parents or guardians is also required to photograph or film minors and to publish photographs or videos that portray them, as well as to contact the child, even by telephone and on social networks.
  3. Authorizations containing sensitive data are kept with care and attention.

F.  Treatment of reports of alleged cases of exploitation, sexual abuse or mistreatment

  1. Those who claim to have been victims of exploitation, sexual abuse or ecclesial abuse, as well as their families, have the right to be welcomed, listened to and accompanied. The Vicar General, directly or through the Referent for the protection of minors, will listen to them, pledging to guarantee adequate spiritual assistance and protecting their image and privacy, as well as the confidentiality of personal data. The Vicar General will be able to entrust the spiritual accompaniment of the offended persons and their family members to a qualified priest.
  2. The injured persons will also be offered medical and social assistance, including urgent therapeutic and psychological assistance, as well as useful information of a legal nature, also availing of the accompanying service managed by the Health and Hygiene Department.
  3. Without prejudice to the sacramental seal, pastoral workers, collaborators and volunteers who have news of a child being a victim of exploitation, sexual abuse or mistreatment, shall inform the Vicar General directly or through the Referent for the protection of minors.
  4. The Vicar General or the Referent asks the author of the report to formalize it in writing, also for the purpose of communicating it to the promoter of justice in the court of the State of Vatican City. The author of the report will be encouraged to complain directly to the promoter of justice in the Vatican City State court.
  5. If the alleged perpetrator of the facts is a cleric or a member of an Institute of consecrated life or of a Society of apostolic life, the Vicar General, having received the news, communicates it without delay to his own Ordinary or to the Major Superior.
  6. Whenever the news of a crime is not manifestly groundless, the Vicar General reports it to the promoter of justice in the Vatican City State Court and removes the presumed author of the facts from the pastoral activities of the Vicariate.
  7. In case of written and justified opposition of the injured person or his legal representatives, or of decline to formalize the notification in writing, the Vicar General will not transmit it to the promoter of justice unless, having heard the Contact for the protection of minors , believes that the report is necessary to protect the injured person or other children from danger.
  8. In the cases of his competence and without prejudice to the investigations conducted in civil proceedings, the Vicar General personally or through a presbyter expert in procedural matters and prudent in discernment carries out the preliminary investigation according to the norm of canon 1717 CIC . The investigation is conducted as a priority.
  9. When required by the circumstances, the competent Ordinary may delegate the competence to conduct the preliminary investigation to the Vicar General.
  10. In the proceedings, the criminal conduct, the generality and the age of the offended persons, the damage caused and the possible commingling with the sacramental forum are verified. Documents, evidence and testimonies from the various areas and environments where the suspect has worked can be collected. The Vicar General can also make use of depositions, testimonies, documents and expert opinions collected in the civil court, as well as any judgments or decisions regarding the subject of the investigation by the jurisdictional organs of the State. To this end, the Vicar General may suspend the proceedings pending the conclusion of the civil investigation.


11. During the proceedings we will take care of:

a) work for the healing of every person involved;

b) collect the testimony of the offended person without delay and in a manner appropriate to the purpose;

c) refer the offended person to the Accompanying Service managed by the Health and Hygiene Department;

d) illustrate to the injured party what his rights are and how to enforce them, including the possibility of providing evidence and asking to be heard directly or through an intermediary;

e) to inform the injured party, if he so requests, of the results of the individual stages of the proceedings;

f) encourage the injured person to avail themselves of the assistance of civil and canonical consultants;

g) preserve the injured person and his family from any intimidation or retaliation;

h) protect the image and the private sphere, as well as the confidentiality of the personal data of the injured party.

12. The presumption of innocence must always be guaranteed, protecting the reputation of the suspect. Unless there are serious reasons to the contrary, the suspect is promptly informed of the charges against him, in order to be able to defend himself against them. He is invited to avail himself of the assistance of civil and canonical consultants. He will also be offered spiritual and psychological assistance.

13. Where there is reason to believe that the offenses can be repeated, the appropriate precautionary measures are taken without delay.

14. If the investigation reveals the likelihood of the crime, the Vicar General submits the case to the competent Dicastery. Otherwise, the Vicar General issues a motivated filing decree, keeping in its archive the documentation certifying the activities carried out and the reasons for the decision taken.

15. Anyone found guilty of committing one of the crimes referred to in Article 1 of Law No. CCXCVII, on the protection of minors and vulnerable persons, of 26 March 2019, will be removed from his posts; he will be offered adequate support for psychological and spiritual rehabilitation, as well as for social reintegration purposes.

I arrange that these guidelines are observed ad experimentum for a period of three years.

Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s, March 26, 2019, seventh of the Pontificate.