Men who were sexually abused as young boys in the 1960s and 70s by members of the Comboni Missionaries religious order at a West Yorkshire boarding school, are now helping to shape the future of Safeguarding in the Order. On 21 March, the Comboni Survivors’ Group, Bishop Marcus Stock and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, travelled to Rome. They were there at the invitation of the Comboni Order and addressed members of the Comboni Institute’s leadership and General Council. The visit included a private meeting with Pope Francis, whom they had first met in June last year.
Read the full statements issued after the most recent meeting by the the Comboni Survivors’ Group and the Comboni Leadership here:March 2023 - Statement CSG & Comboni
St Peter Claver College in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, where the abuse took place operated between 1960 and 1984 as a ‘Junior Seminary’: a boarding school for boys discerning a vocation to the priesthood. Until September 2022, the survivors had never previously received any ‘adequate pastoral response’ in the form of an unreserved acknowledgement or apology from the religious order which ran the College: the Comboni Missionaries (previously known as the Verona Fathers).
As Bishop of Leeds, Bishop Marcus had led the way in June 2021 by making the first public acknowledgement of what the men had suffered as children. It was the first time any senior figure in the Catholic Church had acknowledged this abuse. As St Peter Claver College had been geographically within our Diocese, and with no apology then forthcoming from the Comboni Order, the Bishop took it upon himself to say sorry to the men for the ‘pain and trauma experienced … and for the spiritual suffering and emotional distress which continues to affect you to this day’.
Last year, the men attended a one and a half hour private audience with Pope Francis and in September 2022, the Very Rev. Tesfaye Tadesse, Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries, met with them at Westminster and issued the Order’s long-awaited first acknowledgment and apology.
After the most recent meetings in Rome, Bede Mullen, who lives in Hebden Bridge and is a spokesman for the Comboni Survivors’ Group said:
‘We have achieved our goal of meeting with the leadership of the Comboni Missionaries to tell them directly of the child sexual abuse, and the subsequent secondary abuse we suffered as a result of the way we were treated by the Order following disclosure of the original abuse. The Order listened to the testimony of survivors and learned to accept the shame of their behaviour. We move forward as brothers to repair the damage done.’