Saturday, 19 July 2008

Apology must go further: victims

While the apology has been welcomed, victims say more direct dialogue is needed.

Support groups for victims of sexual abuse by clergy have branded Pope Benedict's apology as meaningless and called on him to say sorry to victims in person.

Speaking at a mass to dedicate an altar at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral this morning, the Pope said he was "deeply sorry" for sexual abuse committed by priests and other Catholic figures in Australia.

"Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice," he told an audience of Australian bishops, seminarians, and novices.

But Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were repeatedly raped by a Melbourne priest as children, says the Pope's apology was "remote" and "limited" and does not ease their suffering.

"I think a remote apology does not carry anywhere near the weight of a personal, direct apology," he said.

"I recognise that the Pope used appropriate words in terms of adding in a little of his own thoughts, I recognise that.

"But this is only an apology, it is only words, it does not commit all the resources of the Church to this problem."

He has called for all archdioceses to provide "practical, unlimited support" and stop blocking legal action.

"There are a lot of victims support groups who can advice the church on what's needed," he said.

Victims support group Broken Rites says victims should have been invited to the mass.

Spokeswoman Chris McIsaac says the apology is meaningless without the victims being present.

"Victims I'm sure would feel very disheartened by this and I'm sure that as the weeks go by they won't feel that there was ever a real apology ever given," she said.

John Ellis, who suffered years of abuse from the age of 14, agrees the Pope should go further.

"It (an apology) needs to be given in an event where victim's representatives are invited to specifically," he said.

"I think it will be very hurtful if he doesn't do that since we won't have been listened to."

Sexual assault victim Anthony Jones says he was abused as an adult and that has been left out of the Pope's apology.

"So he's totally ignored the sexual abuse that has been happening to adults in the Catholic Church," he said.

A series of revelations has been televised, outlining contradictions and omissions in the way the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, dealt with complaints from Mr Jones.

The complaints related to sexual abuse that Mr Jones received at the hands of a priest while he was serving as a religious education teacher.

In response to mounting pressure, Cardinal Pell referred the controversial matter to a hand-picked panel.

Victims say there is still time for the Pope to apologise in person.

Updated: 21 July 8:51am (AEST)

Pope meets abuse victims

Pope Benedict XVI conducted a mass with representatives of sexual abuse victims this morning, less than an hour before he is due to take off to return to Rome.

The Pope officiated at the mass with a group representing victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy.

The Pope listen to their harrowing stories and consoled them and assured them of his support and his continuing prayer of their friends and families of the victims

With this gesture the Pope wanted to demonstrate once more his support and sorrow for all those who have been sexually abused around the world at the hands of Catholic priests.

It is understood that the mass was conducted in the chapel of St Marys.

The Pope celebrated the mass with four victims - two men and two women - and their supporters.

It was held in a tiny chapel of the chapter house in St Marys. It began at 7am and he was helped in the mass by Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Filoni.

It was a highly emotional meeting and which Pope said conveyed the drama and the sorrow of the victims.

Updated: 21 July 11:17am (AEST)

Pope meeting angers abuse activists

The Catholic Church has angered prominent sex abuse activists after they were left out of a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and a small group of abuse victims in Sydney this morning.

Melbourne couple Anthony and Christine Foster, whose two daughters were repeatedly raped by a Melbourne priest, say that neither they nor the victims group Broken Rites were told about or invited to the meeting.

"No we weren't aware of this meeting," Mr Foster said.

"There were some rumours yesterday and it seems to have been conducted without any knowledge of either ourselves or Broken Rites.

"Broken Rites, as a group representing victims, applied for a meeting with the Pope two months ago and have not had any response to that.

"We are very disappointed that people who I think the public have come to accept represent the views of victims have not been included in this meeting."

The Archdiocese of Sydney says its Professional Standards Office nominated three abuse representatives to be present at the mass, which was held ahead of the Pope's departure from World Youth Day events.

"It seems absolutely incredible that the Catholic Church would ignore the views of people who've been articulate in putting forward the needs and requirements of all victims and simply meet with a few victims who may well not be able to present the views of all victims," Mr Foster said.

"Its not realistic to meet all victims, no.

"But I think it would have been quite realistic to at least give us the courtesy of telling us whether he was going to meet with us or not, and to certainly listen to our views so that we could help the Church move forward.

"We want to see a strong united Church that can speak for all its members and the public and put forward views that are respected in the community.

"When this sort of thing happens, they can't be respected."

Chris MacIsaac from Broken Rites says her members are upset that they have missed out on meeting the Pope.

"There wouldn't be all this hullabulloo and people putting up their hands complaining if the process worked properly," she said.

"You can always select hand-picked people who are happy with something.

"Nothing's ever totally wrong or totally right. But if they want to fix this they must listen to the people who have grievance with it."


Rape victims' father seeks papal audience
The father of two girls who were repeatedly raped by a priest while they were primary school students in Melbourne is on his way to Australia from Britain seeking a personal audience with the Pope.

Homeless 'removed' for World Youth Day?
Kevin Simpson from Homeless Voice says men and woman who normally sleep in the city or the Domain have been moved out by authorities.

Court dumps WYD 'annoy' law
Two Sydney activists have won a Federal Court challenge to special World Youth Day laws which carry $5500 fines for annoying or inconveniencing pilgrims.

100k pilgrims expected at WYD opening mass
More than 100,000 pilgrims are expected to attend the first major event of World Youth Day in Sydney today, the opening mass. Pilgrims from countries including Spain and Canada gathered at St Mary's Cathedral next to Sydney's Hyde Park overnight to watch the clock strike midnight and mark the start of World Youth Day activities.

Youth Day laws 'crept up on us'
The state's community legal centres are calling for an inquiry into the expansion of police powers in New South Wales ahead of World Youth Day. The Combined Community Legal Centres Group has investigated the way new powers have been given to police by the State Government, especially for last year's APEC summit in Sydney.

Youth Day laws 'undermine basic rights'
The New South Wales Bar Association says new regulations for World Youth Day undermine basic rights and are an affront to freedom of speech. Under the new regulations, people who refuse to stop engaging in conduct that causes annoyance or inconvenience to pilgrims can be arrested and fined up to $5,500.

Tough police powers outlive APEC
CONTROVERSIAL powers granted to NSW police during last year's APEC summit are likely to be made permanent - or at least available to police for any special event - under a proposal to be taken to state cabinet. The powers made it possible to exclude people from certain zones during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in September. Police were given extraordinary rights to search people.

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