Thursday 23 November 2017

Victims of sex abuse to push for inquiry as Pope visits UK

Survivors to confront pontiff as church fears more rights groups plan protests

Emily Dugan

VICTIMS of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests yesterday called on Pope Benedict XVI to sanction an inquiry into abuses by British clergy.

Speaking on the eve of the papal visit to the UK this week, abused parishioners from England, Scotland, the USA and Australia yesterday accused the Pope of doing too little to protect children from abuse.

Dr Margaret Kennedy, who founded Minister And Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, said: "We don't want words any more from the Vatican; we want action. The actions have not happened -- concrete, discernible decisions about who is going to care for survivors of clergy abuse. What are they going to do to repair our lives?"

They said they planned to try and give the Pope a copy of a book containing accounts of abuse survivors during his visit. According to them, Pope Benedict has repeatedly turned down requests for a formal meeting.

Their call comes as it was revealed that a former abbot of a prestigious Catholic establishment has been summoned back to the UK from Rome in connection with a police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at St Benedict's School, Ealing, in west London. The Right Rev Dom Lawrence Soper (80), now based at Collegio Sant Anselmo in Rome, will voluntarily return to London this month to answer questions.


The appeal also follows the publication of a report in Belgium last week suggesting systemic child abuse by Catholic clergy. The inquiry lists 476 instances of child abuse going back 50 years. Yesterday, Roger Vangheluwe, the former Belgian bishop who resigned in April after admitting he sexually abused a nephew, said he would go into hiding to assess his future, despite calls for him to leave the church.

Pope Benedict's failure to tackle the child abuse issue adequately is just one of a number of criticisms facing the Catholic Church ahead of his arrival in Edinburgh on Thursday. Issues ranging from homosexuality, the ordination of women priests, contraception to prevent the spread of AIDS, and abortion threaten to overshadow the visit. A series of protests are planned.

A recent poll showed 77pc of Britons do not want the taxpayer to contribute £12m (€14.5m) towards the visit. Where there is not outright hostility there is growing apathy: organisers fear the crowds that greeted the last papal visit in 1982 will not be equalled.

Senior Catholics commented last night that attitudes were noticeably more hostile than during John Paul II's trip to Britain 28 years ago.


Irish Independent

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