(By Brian Mark Hennessy)

Mark Murray, from St Asaph in North Wales, was a Catholic child seminarian at the Italian Comboni Missionary Order’s Seminary at Mirfield, Yorkshire, England in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Two decades ago he alleged that a priest of the Order, Father Romano Nardo, sexually abused him when he was a child. The Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order, Father David Kinnear Glenday, (currently the General Secretary of the Union of Superiors General at the Vatican) withdrew the priest from the Missions at that time and, following an investigation, admitted in a letter, dated 17 May 1997, that the priest had “acted inappropriately” by taking the boy to his bed and teaching him to make the sign of the cross”. That statement is devoid of the alleged details of the baptismal rite of mutual purification of naked genitals in which the child was induced to participate – and it does not mention the naked child being encouraged to lie upon the naked body of the priest who “breathed the Spirit of Jesus” into the boy’s mouth. That sign of the cross, to which Glenday referred, was engraved on the priest’s torso by a sharp implement, the sight of which caused the boy to attempt to emulate it by self-mutilation in order to be closer to the God of that priest.

For the last two decades Fr Nardo has been confined to the Order’s Verona House so that he does not have access to children. (One has to ask: “Why would they do that if he had acted only “inappropriately”!) Murray, throughout this period, both through solicitors and directly, has been in touch with the Comboni Order at both United Kingdom Provincial and Roman Curia levels with requests to visit Nardo, but all these requests were refused by the previous Superior General of the Order, Father Enrique Sanchez (in post to end of 2015).

Following an investigation by the West Yorkshire Police and a number of failed attempts by the Crown Prosecution Service to extradite Nardo to the United Kingdom because of alleged incapacity, Murray, decided to go to Verona in Italy to talk to the priest in order to gain a clear understanding of the reason why he had been selected by the priest for abuse, to seek an apology and to offer forgiveness in return. Murray undertook this visit in April 2015. He spoke with Nardo quietly in the Chapel for about ten minutes. Nardo, who demonstrated that he was both physically and mentally able, apologized for Murray’s life-long suffering that he had caused him and, in return, Murray forgave him.

After Murray’s discussion with Nardo, the Vice Superior arrived at the scene and his attitude was hostile to Murray and he threatened to call the Carabinieri. He shrugged off the facts of the abuse with the comment that “We all make mistakes” and insulted Murray as he left by calling him a “Money Grabber”! Murray had not mentioned the word “money” once, but what he had said was that he wanted an “apology” from the Order for their decades of inaction against Nardo. On Murray’s subsequent return to the Order’s Mother House at an agreed time, the Superior told Murray that he would “wait in vain” for an apology from the Order for the alleged sexual abuse, the facts of which the Superior did not deny. The Superior went on to suggest, in remarkable insensitivity and ignorance of the long term effects of child abuse (given that the Order was aware that Murray had at times been suicidal), that Murray went home, forgot about it and got on with his life. Murray left with the unwanted promise of the Superior’s prayers -and in a state of despair and rejection.

The Comboni Missionary Order claimed soon after the events of the visit that Murray might return and injure Nardo (for which there was not a shred of evidence). They then proceeded to lodge allegations of crimes against Mark Murray at the Verona Criminal Court. Those original charges were regarded as insubstantial by the Judge who ordered that they be “archived” on the basis, Murray believes, that they were insubstantial. However, the Comboni Missionary Order, was determined, it seems, to have their Shakespearian “pound of flesh”, and appealed that decision. Thus, to his surprise, Murray received a notification of summons, dated 27 June 2016, through the good offices of the Court nominated Defence Attorney at the Verona Criminal Court, Michele Spina. The charges listed were “stalking, interference in the life of Nardo and trespass on private property”.  The Court Prosecution reference was: “5237/15 RG. Crime Report – Prosecutor Office, Verona, Italy”. The Hearing was on 14th September 2016 at 1000 hours in the Verona Criminal Court, Italy. The Judge for that Preliminary Investigation was Mr Dott Luciano Gorra.  Murray did not attend. Having heard the case for the appeal, the Court has been adjourned pending the decision of the Judge.

Technically, the case against Murray has been brought by the “Legal Guardian” of Nardo. Regarding this fact, Mark Murray suggests that it is sleight of hand on the part of the Comboni Missionary Order so as to deflect criticism from themselves. Somewhat obviously, it should be noted in this regard, that Nardo is not likely to be the registered owner of the Order’s Verona Mother House and thus, legally, he is not in a position to bring a case of trespass against Murray. Despite that, Murray will assert in evidence that he had walked through an open gate and an open door and talked to a receptionist, who then took Murray to the chapel and subsequently called Nardo there to meet Murray. Murray’s two subsequent visits were agreed by arrangement.

The charge of “Stalking” is not credible either. Stalking is the persistent physical practice of following and observing an individual – whereas Mark Murray visited him only once. Correspondence to the Order by Mark Murray over a period of years requesting to visit Nardo does not constitute stalking (even with much imaginative effort).

The third charge of “interfering in the private life of Nardo” is absurd. Father Nardo is alleged to have sexually abused Mark Murray when he was a child. The Comboni Missionary Order accepted in correspondence – albeit with staggering understatement – that Nardo had acted inappropriately by taking Murray to his bed …and now paying Nardo a visit and forgiving him for the crimes committed against him is “criminal interference”!?

The Italian News outlet, “La Repubblica” co-operated with Murray’s visit to Verona and produced two short film recordings and press reports. The films were shown on Italian and UK television outlets and there was substantial press coverage following the visit. La Repubblica’s accredited Vatican correspondent, Marco Ansoldo, has also received a separate summons on different charges relating to his coverage of Murray’s visit to the Order’s Verona House.

Brian Mark Hennessy





 (Background Notes: The Comboni Missionary Order settled – “out of Court” and “without any admission of guilt” – civil cases brought by Murray and seven other ex-seminarians in 2014. The cases were all in relation to allegations of historical child sexual abuse by three Religious members of the Comboni Missionary Order at their Seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England. The Order has adamantly refused to make any apology to the Victim Survivors for this abuse. Another three cases are or have been in the process of litigation. Whilst the full extent of alleged abuse at the seminary is not known with any accuracy, the indications of a survey in 2014/15 of 20 men, who claim to have been abused when children (or were witnesses to the facts), suggest that as many as 1000 individual incidents of child sexual abuse, each one a crime in its own right, may have taken place at the UK establishments of the Order. In all, four deceased and two living Religious have been named in connection with this substantial number of allegations. Nevertheless, Father Martin Devinish, the London Provincial Superior of the Order, claims that sexual abuse, “if” it had taken place, was not endemic at the Mirfield Seminary. (He appears to have forgotten that it was reported to him when he was the Rector of that establishment)! In the Republic of Ireland an allegation has also been made against a further priest of the Order who is believed to be still living within the Order. In the United States a deceased member of the Order was named in connection with child abuse by one Diocese and another priest, who had been working in a youth organization, was banned from a US diocese – and was relocated by the Comboni Missionary Order to the African Continent. It is known that, historically, priests of the Order, against whom child sexual abuse had been alleged, were routinely despatched, by the Superior General of the Order, to Third World Mission territories – where they would have been able to abuse untold numbers of children without detection).

Brian Mark Hennessy






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