Written by Alvise Armellini
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Survivors of sexual abuse of clergy by the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church in Britain and Ireland said on Thursday they finally felt vindicated after “transformative” meetings with Pope Francis and leaders of the Comboni Missionary sect.
The survivors suffered abuse in the 1960s and 1970s as teenagers, while studying to be missionary chaplains at Comboni Institution in Yorkshire, northern England.
In 2014, the St. Daniel Comboni Missionaries resolved a civil suit brought by 11 former students, but without admitting their liability. The command of the order questioned the accounts of the victims and refused to meet with them.
The survivors said that attitude changed after a group of them held talks in Rome with senior officials of Comboni and the English Catholic Church, and held a 45-minute meeting in the Vatican with the pontiff.
Victims said, “We feel that the Comboni leaders not only listened to us but also believed us, which gave us a sense of calm.” “It was a transformative experience for us, which validates our search for justice and dialogue.”
In a joint statement with the survivors’ group, the Comboni Missionary orders apologized for the past abuses, said they were “truly sorry for the times we didn’t respond adequately” and asked for “forgiveness again”.
Sexual abuse and cover-up scandals have rocked the 1.38 billion-member Roman Catholic Church for decades, undermining its moral authority and damaging its members and coffers.
Pied Mullen, a spokesperson for the Comboni survivors’ group, said the Holy Father was instrumental in their case, interceding directly with the Comboni president after he met the victims for the first time in June 2022.
“Francis’ participation was crucial. Without him, we wouldn’t have gone as far as we did,” Mullen told Reuters. He added that Francis “continues to follow developments.”
(Reporting by Elvis Armellini, Editing in Spanish by Aida Pelaez-Fernandez)
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