Abuse victims reject Vatican summit
Sydney Morning Herald
ROME: Pope Benedict has urged ''profound renewal'' of the Catholic Church to prevent child abuse, as the Vatican held its first-ever summit on the issue despite protests by victims.
''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,'' the Pope said.
In a message to participants at the conference, the Pope also called for ''a vigorous culture of effective safeguarding and victim support'' and said every effort should be made to help children's human and spiritual growth.
Bishops from 100 countries and the leaders of 33 religious orders took part in the four-day meeting, as well as the Vatican's top anti-abuse prosecutor, Charles Scicluna, and just one abuse victim, Marie Collins, of Ireland.
The closed-door conference was to launch a child protection centre in Germany to fight sex abuse by the clergy worldwide and included a church service yesterday in which Catholic leaders were to plead for forgiveness. But victims' groups said they were not invited and slammed it as public relations.
''You don't need a jolly in Rome to learn what the right thing to do is,'' said Sue Cox, from Survivors Voice, a coalition of victim support groups from Britain, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United States.
''This is just a PR stunt. It's just theatre really. It's no use,'' said Ms Cox, herself a victim of abuse by a priest who says she still gets panic attacks from the smell of ''whisky, incense and stale sweat''.
Roberto Mirabile, the head of the Italian victim support group La Caramella Buona, said: ''You can have all the symposiums you want, but why don't you open a constructive debate. The church is too closed in on itself.''
But Ms Collins said the conference appeared to be ''a step in the right direction'' . She had decided to take part despite initial hesitation because she believed the initiative could help prevent future abuse.
Ms Collins, who was raped by a priest in a Dublin hospital when she was a child, criticised the Vatican for failing to take responsibility for a systematic cover-up of abusers stretching back decades.
Conference delegates said many abuses remained hidden in Africa, Asia and Latin America and called for redoubled efforts in those countries.
CLAN News Flash