By John Duffy, Commission Member
After many years campaigning, being ignored and treated as troublemakers, the Comboni Survivors Group have achieved their aim, in a meeting in September with the Very Reverend Tesfaye Tadesse, Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries.
The group persisted through barren years to have such a meeting, and gradually built support from a number of groups and individuals, including latterly the Leeds Justice and Peace Commission. Most crucial was the support of Bishop Marcus, who arranged an audience with Pope Francis, who gave the group strong pastoral support, and raised the issue with the Comboni Order.
“Following the meeting today with leadership of the Comboni Missionaries, the Comboni Survivors Group were deeply moved and believe the journey on the healing process has taken one step further. We recognize that the Comboni Missionaries have responded positively to our request for an acknowledgement of the abuse that was suffered, and we welcome their heartfelt apology. We have committed to continue this path of healing together, which we look forward to in a spirit of collaboration and trust.”
The meeting – also attended by Bishop Marcus and Cardinal Vincent Nichols – is described in these statements:
The Very Reverend Testayfe Tadesse added:
“On behalf of the Comboni Missionaries (Verona Fathers) I wish to offer my heartfelt apology to each and every individual who suffered abuse at the hands of those who were entrusted with their welfare, safe keeping and schooling at St. Peter Claver College. I extend this apology to family members and loved one who have suffered too. We regret that mistakes were made over the years, and we make the words of our Holy Father our own in asking for forgiveness from those who have suffered so much. I hope this apology demonstrates our sincere wish to bear witness to the plea of the Holy Father to acknowledge the terrible hurt caused by the sexual abuse of minors and to facilitate the journey towards healing and reconciliation.”
He continues to engage with the Survivors Group and has invited them to a further meeting in Rome in the spring, so that their experience can be used in strengthening safeguarding for the Comboni Order.
Bede Mullen, spokesman for the group expresses his thanks to all who supported them in their long and difficult struggle.