Pope Calls for "Profound Renewal" of Roman Catholic Church

The Telegraph
February 6, 2012

The Pope called for "profound renewal" in the Roman Catholic Church on Monday in an appeal sent to the first conference ever held by the Vatican on the subject of paedophile priests and child abuse.

Pope Benedict XVI looks out over St. Peter's Square Photo: AP

But victims of abuse slammed the conference as an empty gesture likely to produce few results and called on the Holy See to take more concrete steps to ensure that paedophile priests were swiftly exposed and made to face justice.

Benedict XVI said he hoped the conference would "promote throughout the Church a vigorous culture of effective safeguarding and victim support".

He said: "Healing for victims must be of paramount concern in the Christian community and it must go hand in hand with a profound renewal of the Church at every level."

A Vatican statement said that Benedict "supports and encourages every effort to respond with evangelical charity to the challenge of providing children and vulnerable adults with an ecclesiastical environment conducive to their human and spiritual growth."

The Vatican has been accused of complacency and denial in its attitudes to paedophile clergy, with victims criticising the Pope himself for not doing enough to fight the problem when, as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy See's doctrinal enforcement body.

He has been blamed for fostering a culture of secrecy there, signing an official Vatican document in 2001 which instructed bishops to keep secret the details of priestly wrongdoing that they reported to Rome.

During his six-year papacy, paedophile abuse scandals have shaken the faith of Catholics in Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and his native Germany.

Many cases went back decades and involved priests who continued to abuse children, even after their activities were known, because of the collusion of senior Church officials and the inaction of the Vatican.

But the Pope has been praised by some Catholics for his candour on the issue, saying that sex abuse by priests had opened up a "grievous wound" in the Church and apologising to victims in several countries.

The four-day conference at Rome's Gregorian University will bring together bishops from more than 100 countries, as well as the leaders of 33 religious orders.

But victim support groups said they had not been invited to the event and dismissed it as an act of tokenism from a Church that had still not grappled with practical ways of preventing abuse from happening in the future.

"You can have all the symposiums you want, but why don't they open a constructive debate? The Church is too closed in on itself," Roberto Mirabile, the head of La Caramella Buona, an Italian victims' group, told AFP.

Sue Cox, from Survivors' Voice, a coalition of support groups from the US, Britain, Ireland and Germany, said: "You don't need a jolly in Rome to learn what the right thing to do is. This is just a PR stunt. It's just theatre really."

Just one abuse victim will take part in the conference Marie Collins, from Ireland, who as a girl was raped by a priest in a hospital in Dublin.

She said she overcame her initial reservations about the event and decided to take part because she hoped it could prevent future abuse.








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