Priest abuse victims in Britain speak out before pope visit

11th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Victims of abuse by Catholic priests in Britain Saturday urged "action not words" ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's visit, demanding the Vatican do more to help those targeted by paedophile clergymen.

Margaret Kennedy, the founder of Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS), told a London conference that the head of the Roman Catholic Church would travel with the "accolade and dignity" reserved for a head of state.

"Sadly we are not afforded the same respect or dignity or status," she said.

"Many survivors have to almost live in fear, shame, guilt because when they report they are made to feel like pariahs, disloyal, aggressive, money grabbing."

She pointed out that the sub-title of the conference was "action not words", and added: "We don't want words anymore from the Vatican, we want action.

"The actions have not happened -- concrete, discernible decisions about who is going to care for survivors of clergy abuse.

"What are they going to do to repair our lives?"

Among measures demanded by campaigners at the conference were a statutory inquiry into sex abuse by clergy in Britain, and pastoral care and funding to support victims.

The appeal came ahead of the pope's visit to Britain from September 16-19, a trip that is expected to be marked by large-scale demonstrations in protest at the widening sex abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church.

He arrives in Edinburgh on Thursday for the first state visit to Britain by a pope since the Reformation, the split between the Catholics and the Protestants in the 16th century.

He will also visit Glasgow, London and Birmingham in central England before leaving on Sunday.

Kennedy said abuse survivors were writing about their experiences and leaving messages in a book she hoped to present to the pope during his visit.

Efforts by MACSAS to arrange a meeting with the pope to hand it over had so far failed, but the group still planned to try and give the book to Pope Benedict during one of his public appearances, she said.

"We are going to try and say to the pope that we are speaking, please listen," added Kennedy.

It has already emerged that the pope could meet with 10 people who were victims of abuse by priests, according to information from the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

© 2010 AFP

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