The Catholic University of America

Professor Mary Leary summarized the policy positions of the Vatican for the thousands of participants in the congress. The workshops and panel discussions were intended to help advise all nations on how to fight the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.

Professor Mary Leary Led Vatican Delegation to
World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Minors

Catholic University law professor Mary Leary headed the official delegation of the Holy See to the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, which took place in Rio de Janeiro from Nov. 25 through 28, 2008.

The third such global conference organized to identify, educate and offer solutions to the world-wide problem of the sexual abuse of children, the recent meeting was the largest yet. It attracted 3,500 participants, including delegations from 170 different countries, 55 governmental authorities, and 300 adolescents. Overall, 227 workshops were held on a variety of aspects related to the theme.

The four-day congress revolved around common forms of exploitation including child sex tourism, private sector accountability, online sexual abuse, children in prostitution and child trafficking. It offered many workshops and panels, but also highlighted innovative new dialogues with key segments of society, such as the media, scholars and business executives.

Leary is a nationally recognized expert on the problem of the sexual abuse of minors, having previously served as the deputy director for the Office of Legal Counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse. She has lectured and published widely on the subject and also has served as a member of several national child advocacy advisory boards.

"As the head of the Holy See delegation I was honored to represent the Holy See and work toward an eradication of this affront to the dignity of every human being," said Leary. "I was even more honored to work beside members of a delegation who serve these children directly in their work every day."

Earlier congresses designed to combat the exploitation of children were held in Stockholm in 1996 and later in Yokohama, Japan.