Experts Meet in Rome on Internet Safety

Share this article:

Safeguarding Minors from Predators, Porn, and the “Dark Web”


Raising awareness for the preciousness of the dignity of children, especially in the face of the real dangers and threats young people face online, and finding stronger safeguards to protect them brought numerous experts to Rome last October. The Centre for Child Protection (CCP), at the Pontifical Gregorian University, hosted the first-ever “Child Dignity in the Digital World” world congress October 3-6, 2017.

In the wake of all the Catholic Church has suffered via its own scandals related to the sexual abuse of minors, it’s laudable to see talented and devoted leaders gathering at a Catholic university to pool internet knowledge, resources, and strategies, with the goal of protecting children. Organized by the CCP and led by its president, Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, The Child Dignity in the Digital World Congress welcomed international leaders from several fields, including governments, NGOs, business, science, child development and law, as well as religious leaders from differing faiths and continents.

Crux’s news editor John L. Allen’s analysis of the congress had these observations about the caliber of the congress’ assembly and mission:

[The Gregorian hosted] a major international summit titled “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” devoted to the effort to combat child abuse and exploitation online, especially the so-called “Dark Web.” It’s a vast region of the internet, perhaps the overwhelming majority, which is anonymous and designed to be impossible to detect, where 80 percent of the traffic is believed to be driven by child pornography.

The participants represent the best of the best across a staggering range of fields: An epidemiologist from Harvard, the Director of Police Services from Interpol, the Head of Global Safety Policy at Facebook, a former Chairman of an African
Union commission on child safety, the Global Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF, and the Chief Online Safety Officer for Microsoft.

That’s all in addition to a baker’s dozen of academics and researchers, people who’ve been working … both at a statistical and quantitative level and also in the trenches, working with victims and survivors one-on-one. …

[F]or one week, the world’s leading minds and actors in the area of online child protection are gathered at the Gregorian, under the aegis of the Church, the Vatican, and the pope, to figure out a broader and more comprehensive strategy for combating rapidly changing and evolving forms of abuse.” (Read the entire article at

More than 30 speeches, technical reports, plus a series of workshops were delivered. The congress’ work resulted in a document named The Declaration of Rome, presented to Pope Francis during a papal audience. That was also the occasion of another first in Vatican social media: Pope Francis went on Facebook live!

What can we do?

Become informed about the dangers of the internet. (Review the resource list on this page.)

Pray for the work of the congress going forward and the goals of The Declaration of Rome.

Help keep minors safe by taking classes in your diocese, and investigate online courses offered by the Centre of Child Protection in Rome (


PAT GOHN is the editor of Catechist magazine and

This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, January 2018

Photo credit: Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

Share this article: