Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie – Questions for Comboni MIssionaries Superior General

Father Tesfaye, Superior General of Comboni Missionaries

If I was interviewing the new Superior General I would ask him:-

1. Was Sexual Abuse of Minors discussed at the General Chapter?

2. If so, what was decided?

3. If not, why not?

4. When you talked about the problems that the Order has faced were you including the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Comboni Missionaries at Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies?

5. If you were not, why not? Do you not see this as a problem?

6. If you were, what do you see as the problem – the actions of Comboni Missionaries who abused junior seminarians or covered it up or the actions of the abused to get justice?

7. In terms of the Comboni Missionaries and clerical sexual abuse, will your leadership continue as before with the same policies and same actions or will you take a new direction?

8. If it is a new direction, what will this direction be?

9. Pope Francis has said in his US trip “The crimes of sexual abuse against children cannot be repeated.” What action will the Comboni Missionaries take to make sure that his wishes are carried out and that no further abuse can ever take place at the hands of Comboni Missionaries.

10. Pope Francis has said that any Bishops involved in the cover-up of sexual abuse of children will be punished. We have already seen how the top Cardinal in the Scottish Catholic Church has been banished. Will you continue the policy of your predecessors and continue to cover up child abuse or will you flush it out into the open?

11. Will the Comboni Missionaries, under your leadership, apologise to those who were abused in the past and acknowledge what happened to them?

12. Will you agree to meet with representatives of the Mirfield 12 and to work with them to make sure, as Pope Francis requests, that this ‘crime’ in his words, will never be allowed to happen again?

13. Will you hand over any documentation relating to the abuse at Mirfield, e.g. records showing:-
– why Father Pinkman was sent away after multiple accusations of abuse,
– why Father Valmaggia was sent away and thrown out of the Order after multiple sexual abuse accusations,
– why Father Roman Nardo was sent so quickly to the Missions after abusing Mark Murray repeatedly and
– why he was brought home from Uganda after accusations of sexual abuse by Mark Murray
– why Michael Riddle was sacked from his job as a lay teacher after accusations of sexual abuse,

to the appropriate authorities, i.e. to the police and the Vatican?

Father Gebresilasie, Comboni Missionaries Superior General

Father Gebresilasie, Superior General of the Comboni MIssionaries

Verona Fathers

The first time I heard the name the Verona fathers, or Mirfield for that matter, was when Fr. Luciano Fulvi came to my school.  He was what was known amongst the Verona Fathers as their Vocations Director.  And it was his job to go around all the schools in the UK “seeking out” potential vocations for the priesthood and the religious life.  He must have done this job very well.  In the 1960’s junior seminaries were full.

It seems bizarre to me now, that as a child of 12 years old I could make such momentous decisions about leaving home and attempting to train to become a missionary.  No one in my family believed, or would have thought for one minute it would be me – my brother yes – but not me.

Anyway there I was, sitting in my class listening to Fr. Luciano Fulvi talk about the African Missions.  Or more importantly, as far as I was concerned, the African wildlife.   Even then I was passionate about wildlife and nature.  His stories of lions and elephants and of hunting and fishing were what hooked me.  The missions or missionary work did not play much part, and why should it?  I was a child and a dreamer and I already had that Nile Perch at the end of my rod and on the hook.

When Fr. Fulvi asked the inevitable question at the end of his talk, “is anyone interested?” my hand shot up and I ticked the box to say I wanted more information.