Church Reopens Abuse Case Ahead Papal Visit
The Vatican Has Said It Expects the Pope to Raise the Issue but Has Stopped Short of Confirming Whether He Will Apologise.

Javno (Croatia)
July 11, 2008

Only days before Pope Benedict arrives in Sydney, a 25-year-old sexual abuse case involving a Sydney priest has been reopened by the Catholic church after an Australian cardinal denied he tried to cover-up the abuse.

Victims of church abuse in Australia are calling on Pope Benedict to issue a public apology during his visit for World Youth Day, July 15-20.

The Vatican has said it expects the Pope, who arrives in Sydney on Sunday, to raise the issue but has stopped short of confirming whether he will apologise.

The Pope confronted the issue of sexual abuse in the church during a visit to Washington in April, meeting victims and vowing to keep paedophiles out of the priesthood.

Broken Rites, which represents abuse victims in Australia, has a list of 107 convictions for church abuse, but says the real number of cases is far greater as only a handful go to court.

Victims of abuse say the Catholic church in Australia continues to cover-up abuse by clergy despite issuing an apology for past abuse and compensation. The church denies the charge.

Australia's Cardinal George Pell on Tuesday denied he misled Anthony Jones, who complained of abuse by a priest, when he wrote Jones a letter in 2003 rejecting his claim because there were no other complaints against the priest.

Pell wrote to another man on the same day upholding his abuse claim against the same priest.

The priest was stood down and in 2005 convicted of indecently assaulting Jones in 1982.

On Friday, Pell reopened the case, referring it to an independent review panel. Pell is head of the Catholic church in Australia.

"Although the complaints of Mr Anthony Jones have been dealt with by the Church, the criminal court and the civil court, out of consideration for Mr Jones, Cardinal George Pell has formally referred the matters raised this week to an independent consultative panel established under Towards Healing protocols," said a statement from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

"It consists of prominent lay people from the fields of law, business, and psychiatry, as well as a senior priest."

The Catholic church's system for dealing with sex abuse by clergy in Australia is called "Towards Healing" and involves not only investigation of abuse claims, but also counselling for victims.

Victims of abuse by clergy plan to protest during the Pope's Sydney visit, alongside a group called "No Pope" which will hand out condoms in protest at church doctrine and protest extra police powers during the papal visit they say crush civil liberties.

Organisers of World Youth Day expect hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims for the event, with Pope Benedict conducting several religious events culminating in a final open-air mass at Sydney's main horse racing track.

World Youth Day was the brainchild of the late Pope John Paul II who thought a festival which included not only masses and religious events like the stations of the cross, but also music and dance concerts would revitalise the world's Catholic youth.


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