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Europe

Victims of priest abuse to protest at the Vatican

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-10-31

Hundreds of victims of abuse by priests from around the world are expected to gather in protest outside the Vatican on Sunday, to publicly condemn the Catholic Church's handling of a sex abuse scandal involving children in several countries.

AFP - People from across the world who have been abused by priests gather outside the Vatican Sunday to condemn the Catholic Church's handling of the scandal, its worst crisis in years.
  
Several hundred protestors -- victims of abuse and their families -- are expected to demonstrate at the home of the powerful Church before leading a candle-lit vigil at which they will leave personal messages for the Vatican.
  
"This isn't an attack on faith or religion, it's about behaviour and ethics," said Marco Lodo Rizzini, a spokesman for child victims of abuse from Italy's Antonio Provolo institute for the deaf.
  
Sixty-seven deaf-mute children at the Catholic institute in the city of Verona were allegedly abused by priests and lay staff between the 1950s and 1980s.
  
Similar claims have emerged from across Europe and the United States, with the Church accused of not acting quickly or firmly against priests involved and even covering up the problem.
  
"Society has failed to address the problem of child abuse by priests, but we can't let this go unresolved, it's time to act," Bernie McDaid, co-founder of the US group Survivors Voice that is behind the event, told AFP.
  
"We're hoping to expose the cover-up and ensure that children all over the world who suffer abuse receive help," said McDaid, who was abused by a priest when he was a boy.
  
The protest, due at 1600 GMT, will draw people from 13 countries including Australia, Belgium, Britain, The Netherlands and the United States, organisers said.
  
McDaid founded Survivors Voice with a fellow victim of clerical child abuse, Gary Bergeron, "to bring survivors and supporters from around the world together for the first time" and to recognise the issue's "global impact."
  
"We're gathering at the Vatican because we want the world to realise that if a child can be abused somewhere that is supposed to be the ultimate safe place, it can happen anywhere," said Bergeron.
  
"If children can be abused by a person who represents God -- in any faith -- they can be abused by anyone," he said.
  
Bergeron, who told his parents in 2002 he had been abused before discovering that his father was also a victim of clerical paedophilia, said the demonstration was not about making an example of the Catholic Church.
  
"Sadly it has already made an example of itself," he said.
  
The Church is grappling with its worst crisis in recent years since the publication in November 2009 of a report revealing serial abuse of children by priests in Ireland and a subsequent cover-up, with similar cases unveiled in countries including Belgium and Germany.
  
Senior clerics were accused of protecting guilty priests by shifting them to other parishes, where some offended again, instead of handing them over to face justice.
  
Pope Benedict XVI himself has faced allegations that, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he headed the Vatican morals watchdog and earlier as the Archbishop of Munich, he failed to take action against predator priests.
  
The pope has stepped up his displays of contrition towards victims of paedophile priests on state visits as part of a concerted effort to convince Catholics and the wider world that the Church is now serious about tackling abuse.
  
The US association plans to mark the demonstration in Rome by announcing "The Year of the Survivor" and has started a global online petition to call on the United Nations to define paedophilia a "crime against humanity."

Date created : 2010-10-31

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