Father Hudson's Victims Demand Meeting with Pope

By Adam Aspinall
Sunday Mercury
September 12, 2010

FORMER childhood victims of paedophile Catholic priests are demanding a meeting with the Pontiff in Birmingham next weekend.

Pope Benedict XVI flies into the country on Thursday for the first papal visit since 1982 and will host a live Mass in Cofton Park on Sunday.

It has been reported he will meet victims of clerical sex abuse in secret during the four-day tour, in an attempt to defuse the long-running scandal.

Amazingly, Catholic Church officials had apparently struggled to find victims willing to meet the Pope in private.

Rose Connolly, 54, suffered abuse at Father Hudson's Home in Coleshill, Warwickshire, in the late 1950s and said she would be happy to attend any attempt at conciliation.

"For years all people like me have wanted is an explanation of why we were abused and why were treated so badly," she said.

"I know I wouldn't be alone in saying that victims of abuse at places like Father Hudson's Home would love the chance to meet the Pope and discuss it with him.

"Although, the truth is, I don't think many would be able to hold back their feelings."

Another victim, who did not want to be named, added: "I think this is just a PR exercise to make the Vatican look better.

"They don't care about sex abuse now and never have done in the past, otherwise they might have done something about it when the hundredth report of sex abuse was quietly swept under the carpet."

Scores of men and women have claimed they suffered attacks while at the Father Hudson's Home from the 1940s to the 1980s.

In 2009 the Sunday Mercury revealed a catalogue of shocking new allegations from 11 people about sexual and physical abuse by priests and nuns. Yet only one priest has ever been convicted of abusing children at the home.

Eric Taylor was found guilty of attacking boys and girls from 1957 to 1965. He was arrested when terrified victims came forward in the 1990s and was sentenced to seven years jail but died in prison in 2000, aged 80.

The Pope has met abuse victims on past overseas trips, but public anger has been stoked in recent months by a series of new revelations of clerical abuse in Ireland and his native Germany. In June, the Pontiff begged for forgiveness from God and victims in a sermon to priests in Rome.

Some campaign groups have said they will attempt a citizen's arrest of the Pope over the church's alleged cover-up of abuse, with several human rights lawyers arguing that he should face a trial.

Meanwhile, Irish Catholics appear set to snub Pope Benedict's visit to Britain with fewer than 1,000 expected to make the pilgrimage across the water. Some 88 per cent of the island's population is Catholic, but the Pope is not visiting the country.

Up to 65,000 people are expected to attend the Mass in Cofton Park, which will also see the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

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