Comboni: Sexual abuse victims welcome apology from missionaries

BBC [London, England]

September 14, 2022

A victim of child sexual abuse at a priest training school has said missionaries “begged for forgiveness” at a meeting.

Mark Murray was one of several abuse survivors who met the Comboni Missonaries in London on Tuesday.

The 66-year-old from St Asaph, Denbighshire endured repeated abuse by a priest while at St Peter Claver College in West Yorkshire.

The Comboni Survivors Group said it was “deeply moved” by the meeting.

The group was invited to meet Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and other seniors clerics, including members of the Comboni Missionaries at the Archbishop’s House in Westminster.

“It was much more positive than I had imagined it was going to be,” said Mr Murray

“They acknowledged the abuse, which is something that we always wanted.”

Mr Murray had joined the former junior seminary when he was 13, between 1969 and 1974.

Pope Francis had urged the order to engage with the victims’ group after a private meeting with him in June.

Mr Murray said the order had taken guidance from the Pope by going further than a simple apology.

“They begged for our forgiveness, I didn’t expect it to be as heartfelt as it was,” he said.

“It’s a dramatic step forward on our journey of healing.”

Mr Murray was one of 11 former trainee priests who shared a £120,000 settlement from The Verona Fathers, [the Roman Catholic mission now known as Comboni Missionaries], over abuse suffered in the 1960s and 70s.

The men have also received an apology from the Bishop of Leeds, after sharing their testimonies with Pope Francis.

In a statement the Comboni Survivors Group said: “We recognise the Comboni Missionaries have responded positively to our request for an acknowledgement of the abuse suffered, and we welcome their heartfelt apology.

“We have committed to continue this path of healing together, which we look forward to in a spirit of collaboration and trust,” they said.

‘Terrible hurt’

Responding on behalf of the Comboni Missionaries, the Very Reverend Tesfaye Tadesse, the order’s Superior General, said: “On behalf of the Comboni Missionaries [Verona Fathers] I wish to offer my heartfelt apology to each and every individual who suffered abuse at the hands of those who were entrusted with their welfare, safekeeping and schooling at St Pete Claver College.

“I extend this apology to family members and loved ones who have suffered too, we regret that mistakes were made over the years.

“I hope this apology demonstrates our sincere wish to bear witness to the plea of the Holy Father to acknowledge the terrible hurt caused by the sexual abuse of minors, and to facilitate the journey towards healing and reconciliation.”

The abuse victims said they would continue to meet members of the Comboni order in the coming months.

Mr Murray said that was vital, to ensure the order not only recognised its mistakes in the past, but also had “a conversation and change of heart”.

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