NAIROBI, Kenya — Catholic bishops of East Africa have introduced a handbook to assist church leaders develop standards to safeguard the safety of children.

Titled “Child Safeguarding — Standards and Guidelines: A Catholic Guide for Policy Development” was introduced May 29 in the Kenyan capital May 29 by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa, known as AMECEA.

The release followed a three-day child safety seminar May 28-30 attended by bishops, clergy, religious men and women and laypeople working in various ministries.

George Thuku, AMECEA’s child protection officer, said the handbook is expected to be used by each national bishops’ conference throughout the region as they establish their own safeguarding policies.

“Each of the national episcopal conferences should ensure that it has officially launched its national policy on the issue, child safeguarding,” Thuku said.

Father Emmanuel Chimombo, director of AMECEA’s Pastoral Department, explained that the handbook sets the minimum requirements for individual bishops’ conferences to follow.

“The document is not everything, but has a minimum standards and guidelines that the church in the region can effectively use to tackle matters pertaining to the child safeguarding and protection,” he said.

The handbook includes guidelines on funding the establishment and implementation of child protection policies.

“There should be other avenues through which the issue (of) child safeguarding and protection could equally be tackled under some of the already existing policies within the church structure,” Thuku said during the handbook’s introduction.

Afterward, the release, Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama, Zambia, told Catholic News Service that the handbook builds on the discussions by the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences during the Vatican summit on child protection in February.

“Whichever way you look at it, the two complement each other, not forgetting that some national conferences in the region had already formulated the policy before the bishops’ Summit,” Chama said. “But whichever way, the Holy Father, Pope Francis must be thanked for his input on the issue.”

He said church leaders must not “downplay” the issue of child sexual abuse by clergy. “The child abuse is quite central as it touches on the child itself, the ‘accused’ person and the church itself,” he said.

The release follows Pope Francis’s May 9 revision and clarification of norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse.

The document, given motu proprio, on the pope’s own initiative, was titled Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”). It is meant to help bishops and religious leaders around the world clearly understand their duties and church law, underlining how they are ultimately responsible for proper governance and protecting those entrusted to their care.

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