Italian Priest Abuse Victims Hold First Public Meeting

BBC News
September 26, 2010

Salvatore Damolo said there was 'no hope' of justice for abuse victims in Italy

Victims of child abuse by Catholic priests in Italy have gathered in Verona, and called for such abuse to be made a crime against humanity.

Dozens of victims and their families went to the public meeting, the first of its kind in Italy.

Organiser Salvatore Damolo, a former victim and an ex-priest, said the aim was to give victims a platform to talk about their experiences.

He appealed for help in seeking justice for those who have been abused.

Italian bishops say around 100 cases of abuse have been investigated by Church authorities in the past decade. But organisers of the conference say the true number of victims is much higher.

International protest

Justice for the abused is hard to come by because Italy has a statute of limitations of 10 years, meaning that by the time victims came forward, it was often too late, Mr Damolo said.

"Here there is no hope. By the time a victim arrives at the awareness of having been a victim, legal intervention is not possible," he told the Associated Press news agency.

This was the first conference of its kind in Italy, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy, and it took place in the location of one of Italy's most serious cases of alleged abuse by Catholic clergy.

Sixty-seven deaf-mute children at Verona's Catholic Antonio Provolo institute were allegedly abused by priests and lay staff between the 1950s and 1980s, according to testimony obtained by AP in 2009.

Next month they will hold a demonstration outside the Vatican, to which US abuse victims have also been invited, the Italian news agency Ansa reports.

"This will be an international protest and we will go in front of the Vatican to denounce once again these numerous [paedophiles] that shocked young victims and weren't known until now," said Marco Lodo Rizzini, a spokesman for the alleged Antonio Provolo institute victims.

Pope Benedict XVI has this year made several expressions of regret to victims of child abuse within the Catholic Church in different countries.

During the papal trip to the UK earlier this month, he expressed his "deep sorrow" for the "unspeakable crimes".

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