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Pastoral Solutions for Children of Divorce and Parents of Aborted Children


Knights of Columbus and John Paul II Institute Sponsor International Conference of Experts

Many children are deeply affected and often harmed by the divorce of their parents, and a great number of women and men experience emotional pain and psychological effects as a result of their experience with abortion.

That was the message of an international panel of experts, who have studied these issues, and came together April 4-5 in Rome to help begin discussion of pastoral solutions to those affected.

The Knights of Columbus and the Rome session of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family at the Lateran University sponsored “Oil on the Wounds: A Response to the Aftermath of Divorce and Abortion.” The speakers came from eight countries, including several from Italy and the United States.

The conference was held at the Pontifical Lateran University. On April 5, the conference participants had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

“As an organization organized to protect families, we think it is absolutely necessary for society to take note of the effects of divorce and abortion, two things that do the most damage to the integrity of families in our society,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who moderated the opening session of the conference.

Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family

“It is our hope that this conference will spur a greater ministry within the Catholic Church to these children whose stable family structure has been shattered, and to these parents, who grieve the abortion of their unborn child – often in isolation and silence”

“Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have often spoken of the importance of the family as the cornerstone of society, and both divorce and abortion strike at the heart of that cornerstone,” said Msgr. Livio Melina, president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family headquartered at the Vatican. “We are here to discuss how the Church can help heal the wounds left by these two destructive forces.”

Speakers on divorce included Prof. Rafaela Iafrate from the Centro Ateneo Studi e Ricerche sulla Famiglia in Milan, Elizabeth Marquardt, author of the book Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce and researcher Joan B. Kelly, who, with Judith Wallerstein has done groundbreaking longitudinal studies on the subject, and is co-author of several books including Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce.

On abortion, speakers included Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel – an international network of outreach to parents with aborted children, Mother Agnes Mary Donavan, of the Sisters of Life in the United States, Dr. E. Joanne Angelo of Tufts University School of Medicine and Dominique Vandier of the Association Agapa in Paris, France.

The conference is the result of a discussion begun with several papers delivered by Carl Anderson last year at the Lateran University on these two topics. Anderson served as founding vice president and first dean of the U.S. session of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.