CLERICAL CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS ORDERS OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE MISSION COUNTRIES – By Brian Mark Hennessy

CLERICAL CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE ROLE OF

RELIGIOUS ORDERS OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE MISSION COUNTRIES

By Carol Glatz writing for the Catholic News Service

In a continuing effort to protect children, the Catholic Church’s focus is now turning to religious orders of men and women. Much of the attention has, in the past, been on how dioceses and national bishops’ conferences have been responding to victims and protecting children. But, religious orders and congregations are sometimes left out of that picture, even though they, too, have a duty to make sure every person in their care is safe. Also, the majority of the more than 300,000 Catholic schools and orphanages around the world are run by religious brothers and sisters whose charisms are to promote human dignity and Gospel values.

Pope Francis last year authorized the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate and judge claims of “abuse of office” by bishops who allegedly failed to protect minors and vulnerable adults from sex abuse. But that form of censure “wasn’t extended to the superior generals (of the Missionary Congregations), and it should be,” said Father John Fogarty, superior general of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. Canon Law and the complementary Vatican norms regarding this field “refer only to clergy” — bishops, priests and deacons — said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.

While the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation asked the bishops’ conferences to develop guidelines and procedures on how they are adhered to by local bishops, he said religious brothers, religious seminarians before ordination or religious sisters are in a league of their own, and the canonical practice is different. Each religious order or congregation establishes its own policies, he said. And while some may have a set of guidelines for their whole congregation, in others, each province or region is in charge of setting up safeguarding guidelines, Father Zollner told Catholic News Service.

Father Fogarty said his “first priority” after being elected superior of the Spiritans in 2012 was to establish comprehensive guidelines and then ask each of the order’s provinces and regions to draw up procedures that would protect children and respect local laws and customs. “Not everyone is at the same point on the learning curve,” he said. But his experience working for the province in Ireland and as provincial superior in the United States “was very helpful for me for formulating policy,” said the Dublin-born missionary. He was surrounded by “lots of accumulated wisdom, lots of workshops, all the latest insights and reports,” he said. Since each local superior of his order is responsible for his territory, Father Fogarty said he uses his role “to work with the superiors” and get them all “on the same wavelength.” Not everyone in every part of the world is “at the same point” in recognizing the need to protect and care for children and survivors; “our job is to get them there, put pressure on them to produce adequate policies, procedures, hold workshops” and use every “means at our disposal” to spread awareness and resources. When new superiors meet in Rome each year, one session is dedicated to safeguarding norms, Father Fogarty said. When leaders don’t draw up procedures or get informed, he said, “we can urge them” to, “but we can’t do it in their place. We can’t replace (the local superior).”

The need to have adequate protection policies and procedures in place for religious orders is urgent since they are present in so many countries around the globe, said Mark Vincent Healy, an advocate in Ireland for services and care for survivors of child sexual abuse. For example, of the 48 Spiritan priests noted in Ireland’s National Board for Safeguarding Children’s audit in 2012 as accused of abuse in Ireland, half of them had also served in other countries, including the United States, Canada, Sierra Leone and Kenya, Healy has said. In Healy’s situation, the Spiritan priest who abused him at the school the order ran in Ireland was transferred to a Spiritan-run school in Sierra Leone, where he allegedly abused again before being convicted in Ireland and laicized. Healy’s case was handled in Ireland — the country where the abuse occurred — but, he said, victims of Irish missionaries in other countries, particularly Africa, lack clear or any channels at all for reporting and redress.

The church already responds to the psychological, emotional and spiritual fallout of victims of war in many of those countries, Healy said, so why not extend that same care and concern to victims of abuse by its own members. Healy said he was looking at ways the order and the church as a whole could provide services across jurisdictions, especially “in countries where there are no structures” to help survivors and communities. One proposal, which he also discussed with Father Fogarty, was the creation of a global network modeled after Doctors Without Borders. Instead of addressing physical harm, the network could specialize in delivering mental health care services to people suffering from trauma caused by war, civil conflicts and abuse in underdeveloped nations. By offering comprehensive mental health services, perhaps “you can alleviate the suffering and bring some function back to a dysfunctional society. Otherwise, violence will just repeat itself,” Healy said.

Father Zollner said that in some places in Asia and parts of Africa, the Catholic Church “is the organization that is doing more to safeguard minors than other groups.” In some areas, he said, “if you didn’t have the church, you would have nothing there” to look after and care for the most vulnerable. One example, he said, is Bishop Emanuel Barbara of Malindi, Kenya. The bishop, who’s a Capuchin priest from Malta, “set up the first help desk in the whole country” for victims of the sex-tourism industry there. “All the others, including those who legitimately have the power, just look away from the problem, there is much money involved,” Father Zollner said. With one in five children in Europe expected to be victims of some form of abuse, according to the Council of Europe, and global estimates reporting 40 million children are subjected to abuse each year, many child protection advocates want to see more action and cooperation among all sectors of society. “If the Catholic Church can address it, then the larger human family can, too,” Healy said. The church can’t keep being seen as sole perpetrator and healer “because that’s not working.”

 

Notes by Brian Mark Hennessy:

> The above article raises many issues known already to the Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse at the hands of Clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order at the Mirfield Seminary in Yorkshire, England. Specifically, information contained in that Order’s own historical archive refers to a conversation between a Provincial of the Order and the Superior General who said, “Dear Father. many of our Order think that if they had behaved less well they would have been granted their desire to go to the missions and so they feel betrayed (when prevented from going). Should we be responsible for creating the idea that only the maladjusted are sent to the Missions?”. Moreover, of those clerics whose abuse was reported at the time by seminarians on 29 known occasions, two of those clerics were sent to the missions – one to South Africa and one to Uganda and the third was incardinated into a diocesan parish in Italy. Another priest against whom allegations have been made has been located in Mozambique for many decades. No sign of consideration to other children with whom these clerics came into contact appears to have been considered at all. The re-allocations of those clerics appeared to be related more to removing those clerics from the United Kingdom legal jurisdiction as fast as practically possible.

> Father Zollner may be familiar to some readers. Mark Murry met Father Zollner on the occasion of Mark’s invitation to the Vatican to speak on the effects of abuse that he suffered at the hands of a priest of the Comboni Missionary Order when Mark was a thirteen-year-old seminarian at the Mirfield Seminary. Father Zollner later contributed to an article that appeared in this forum. The priest who has admitted that he abused Mark Murray remains within the Comboni Missionary Order at the Verona Mother House under the protection of the Order. It is believed that no reports have ever been made to the Vatican regarding this priests admissions of abuse under either Canon Law or the Motu Proprio, ‘Sacramentorum Sanctitatus’ which are mandatory reports to be made by Bishops concerning diocesan priests.  All attempts to extradite the cleric to the United Kingdom have, so far, failed. It is also of note that just before Mark Murray attended the Vatican Meeting, the Comboni Missionary Order appeared to attempt to scare off Mark Murray from entering Italy and addressing the Vatican meeting. They did this by the issue of a summons through the Verona Criminal Tribunal on what turned out to be totally unfounded charges. Mark, however, was not deterred and made his presentation to the world assembly of Representatives.

> It is of further interest that it is common that clerics whose abuse of children is fully documented, are not reported to civil authorities as a matter of routine practice by either Bishops or General Superiors. This situation pertains despite calls from such notable Vatican figures as Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, Member of the Pope’s personal Advisory Council, Member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Chair of the Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors – to the effect that all child sexual abuse should be reported to the Civil Police by Bishops and Religious Superiors in every instance as a basic “moral duty”.

> Recently Reports have appeared in the Vatican press to the effect that Pope Francis’ recent call, just a few weeks ago, for “no tolerance” to be shown to clerics who abuse children was little more than “whispers in the wind”. In the last week, the very same Pope has called for “mercy” to be shown to those same priests – who have demonstrated no such mercy whatsoever to innocents – many of whom were brutally and repeatedly abused and who subsequently have continued in adulthood to suffer the lifelong effects of that abuse. According to one commentator in the last week, Pope Francis’ “no tolerance” has so far applied to only 25% of priests determined to be guilty of child sexual abuse, but the remaining 75% have been granted “mercy” with no loss of clerical dignity nor privileges. If these figures are verifiable, then someone needs to point out to Pope Francis that his “no tolerance” call was outrageously misleading – and neither the 1.2 billion lay Catholics in this world who are “sick to the teeth” of the Vatican’s failure to manage the problem of the clerical sexual abuse of minors appropriately – let alone everybody else in the world watching with wry smiles on their faces and in total disbelief– will ever believe anything this Pope, or his princely Vatican entourage, ever say in the future.

> Finally – in the question of the Rules of Missionary Congregations, it has to be said that in matters of Child abuse, the Rules of the Comboni Missionary Order, despite my many misgivings, are “reasonably” sound “as written”. They were revised in 2005, by none other than a childhood friend of mine, David Glenday, to reflect the changing winds. Those Rules even allow for individual provinces of the Order to reflect local civil laws and the rules of the Conference of Diocesan Bishops that pertain to their geographical location. Great! However, the problem is, upon my very close inspection of those Rules, that, in practice, the Comboni Missionary Order in the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic, have ignored their own Rules totally. Yes – totally in every detail. In addition, they refused attempts by the Former Chair of the United Kingdom’s Catholic Safeguarding Organisation to encourage them back into line. It has to be said also, as a final comment on the lack of commitment by the Comboni Missionary Order to the issues of clerical child sexual abuse and the care of Victims, that even after the acceptance of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster’s Diocesan Rules and Guidelines by the Religious Conference of England and Wales – to which august organization the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionary Order is the Secretary (at the last time I looked) – the Order’s “tolerance” of those Diocesan Rules is 0%. Someone needs to tell them that they have misunderstood Pope Francis’ call for “no tolerance”. In respect to the Rules, the “tolerance” level is expected to be 100%. Pope Francis’ call for “no tolerance” relates to the manner in which the Order is expected to deal with those paedophile priests, still in their midst, whom they have protected for decades. 

TRIBUNAL OF VERONA OFFICE OF THE JUDGE OF THE PRELIMINARY HEARING

No 5237/15 R.G. notizie reato

No 16/111 R.G. G.I.P

TRIBUNAL OF VERONA

OFFICE OF THE JUDGE OF THE PRELIMINARY HEARING

The Justice, Luciano Gorra found:

That the apparent superfluous nature of the themes of investigation presented by the complainant (Comboni Missionaries acting as the Legal Guardian of Padre Romano Nardo) – was nothing more than a re-run of the matters they had already stated during the original hearing of the complaint – and that that (the absence of any new evidence), in itself, makes the case of the complainant inadmissible (in this preliminary hearing that has been convened following an  appeal against dismissal by the Comboni Missionary Order).(It is confirmed, therefore,) that the Prosecutor’s original request (for dismissal following the original submission) appears to be reasonable, but nevertheless must be fully understood for what it is. (See the following):

Of consideration is that, in particular, the first time Mark Murray (the Victim of alleged abuse by Padre Nardo) entered the Missionaries Centre, where the interview took place with Padre Romano Nardo with (Murray’s) objective of video-recording the event, he (Mark Murray) was duly authorized entry by the concierge staff (and thus trespass cannot be alleged). Similarly, in relation to the subsequent visits by Murray to the house of the African Missionaries where Padre Nardo was hospitalized, Murray’s intentions were only to have meetings regarding the complainant (Padre Nardo) that the Victim (Mark Murray) had said had sexually abused him 45 years before at the seminary – thus ruining his life.

Murray was instructed to leave the institute at one point (by the Vice Superior) and an additional member of the Religious Community (believed to be a lay member of the Order) was called to ensure that he (Mark Murray) left. Despite the alleged difficulty they (the Comboni Missionaries) had in ensuring that Murray left the premises, the substantive ingredients necessary to prove an offence under Article. 612 were not substantiated by the complainants (the Comboni Missionaries). Moreover, these issues were related to (three) individual episodes that occurred in a very short period of time and were thus devoid of any known habitual pattern (that would indicate an offence of stalking).

Murray’s actions, moreover, were justified (and thus interfering in the life of Padre Nardo cannot be alleged) by his intention to personally express the degree of his suffering that was caused (in the first instance) by the alleged sexual harassment. His actions were also justified (in the second instance) by his (Mark Murray’s) willingness to forgive (and his actual forgiveness of) the alleged perpetrator (Padre Nardo) of that original alleged abuse .

The Judge of the Preliminary Hearing

LUCIANO GORRA  (Signature)

VERONA 14TH SEPTEMBER 2016

(Translated and paraphrased for understanding by Brian Mark Hennessy. Italic Words in parenthesis have been added to assist those unfamiliar with the case with their understanding of the events).

JUDGE AT VERONA CRIMINAL COURT DISMISSES ALL ALLEGATIONS AGAINST UK VICTIM OF CHILD ABUSE

JUDGE AT VERONA CRIMINAL COURT DISMISSES ALL ALLEGATIONS AGAINST UK VICTIM OF CHILD ABUSE

Outline

Mark Murray, from St Asaph in North Wales, has had all allegations brought against him by the Italian Priest, Padre Romano Nardo (Comboni Missionary Order),  dismissed by the presiding Judge at the preliminary Court Hearing at the Verona Criminal Tribunal on 14th September 2016. Murray did not attend the proceedings.

The hearing had been convened following an earlier dismissal of the case by the Tribunal Prosecutor and a subsequent Appeal against that decision by the Catholic Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy.

The allegations against Murray were “trespassing, stalking and interference in the private life of Padre Romano”. Both the original Prosecutor of the Italian Criminal Tribunal and the Judge at the Preliminary Hearing following Appeal dismissed all the allegations as unfounded. In doing so they supported the actions of Murray to visit his alleged Abuser, detail to that Abuser the life-long effects he had suffered from the abuse and Murray’s act of forgiveness to his Abuser.

Murray is taking legal advice on issues relating to the presentation of false evidence by the Comboni Missionary Order and their attempts to defame his character.  The Order have GB bases at Sunningdale in Berkshire, Leeds , Glasgow and Dublin. The Order in the UK have not commented upon this specific case albeit they have treated Murray with contempt in the past and refused to talk to both him and other seminarians about the sexual abuse they suffered at Mirfield in UK.

Despite his innocence of all charges, Mark Murray has been tendered Court Fees by his Defence Lawyer,  for acting on his behalf.

NOTES

The Italian News outlet, “La Repubblica” co-operated with Murray’s visit to Verona and produced two short film recordings and press reports – which are available on request, as is also a copy of the summons notification, from Murray listed in ‘Contacts” below. 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.

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. Other cases are or have been in the process of litigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Truths” that are Hidden by Clerical Masters of Understatement

(Written and posted on this Blog by the authorised contributor: Brian Mark Hennessy)

Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil Resigns

Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, (which can be accessed on-line at NCRonline.org.), Lise Alves reports on the resignation, recently accepted by Pope Francis, of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil. The retirement from Aldo’s bishopric was accepted on the grounds of Canon 401.2 which covers many issues from poor health to “grave”, but unspecified causes.

Curiously, the Vatican has not specified the grave matter that  led to the resignation. Nevertheless, the Archbishop of Paraiba himself vaguely admitted that he had made errors – one of which was, in his own words of explanation: ” I made the mistake of being too trusting.  I gave shelter to priests and seminarians in order to offer them new chances in life. Among those were some who were later suspected of committing serious derelictions.” (“Derelictions”, we should note, is Vatican Canon Law “speak” for sexual abuse).

Lise Alves reports that some of the clerics taken in by Pagotto had been accused of “paedophilia” –  a word which the Archbishop seemed reluctant to use. In all probability his reluctance stems from the un-challenged claim that Archbishop Aldo was well aware, at the time he gave shelter to those  priests and seminarians, that the accusations of child sexual abuse against them were already known to him.

Paedophile Priests Suspended

Another piece in the Catholic National Reporter (by Catherine Lagrange, Dominique Vidalon and Gareth Jones) reports that the Roman Catholic Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin, has announced that he has suspended four priests accused of paedophile activities and that their cases “are known” to French judicial authorities.

Curiously, this Cardinal was equally obscure about the details for he said in his statement that the un-named four had been working in the Lyon region in central France – but he would not say where. Apparently, according to Barbarin, other un-named priests are the “object of special measures”, but he would not elaborate what those measures were and nor the reason for those measures.

Prior to those announcements, the French Gendarmerie had questioned Cardinal Barbarin for more than 10 hours over the activities (in the early 1990s) of a pedophile priest, Father Bernard Preynat, and why Barbarin had not reported the facts to the civil authorities in the circumstances that such a failure to report a crime is an offence in France.

Meanwhile, several victims of alleged paedophile abuse have made complaints against Barbarin to the authorities for leaving accused priests in place, but Barbarin has denied any wrongdoing. He has acknowledged, however, mere “errors of management” in respect to the appointment of some priests.

Cardinal Barbarin’s Errors of Management

The “errors of management” of Cardinal Barbarin are a direct parallel to the excuses of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil who pleaded that he had simply been “too trusting”! These deliberately understated reasons for their failures beg the question as to what planet do the senior clerics of the Catholic Church inhabit in their spare time?

We are talking about criminal paedophiles who sexually molest and abuse children.  These criminals have been molly-coddled, pampered, cosseted and secreted within the walls of Catholic Church establishments – instead of being reported and handed over as alleged criminals to the legal authorities of the Civil States who have jurisdiction.

Bishops Guilty of Looking the Other Way

I cannot help but note that in June, Pope Francis warned that bishops guilty of looking the other way or covering up child abuse by priests within their dioceses could be removed from their duties. He has also said that protecting paedophile clerics is a “crime”.

So, in these cases, if the Archbishop of Paraiba and the Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyon have protected paedophile priests or seminarians from the jurisdiction of the legal authorities within their dioceses, why has the Vatican Curia not stated it specifically?

The Vatican does not constitute the “Church” in its totality. If a crime has been committed – then it is a crime against the whole “Church” – and thus all members of that “Church” have a right to know the details of crimes committed within and against the Church!

Vatican Curia Pussy-Footing

These episodes appear to be yet other Vatican Curia acts of “pussy-footing” confusion in which they wave a big rhetorical stick one day – and then camouflage the damaging details the next.

In today’s world, the Vatican must treat all members of the Church – both lay and clerical – as adults who are capable of a surprising degree of discernment – and not as the children of the Edwardian era who were to be “seen, but not heard” and in front of whom “delicate matters” were discussed only in obscure, coded, hushed whispers.

Those days are long since gone – and are unacceptable in the Catholic Church of today.

Comboni Missionaries Paedophile Priests

Closer to the home of this blog, there are parallels to the above within the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, whose paedophile priests, past and present, have never been handed over to the civil authorities – but who instead were moved rapidly out of the jurisdictions of the law enforcement agencies of the states in which their crimes were committed.

In some cases they were sent to distant Mission territories, in another case to the smallest of parishes in an Italian mountain diocese – and in a current case one, Father Romano Nardo, is confined to a “secret location”.

The nature of Fr Nardo’s crimes have been known to the Comboni Order since 1970, but he was then whisked out of the United Kingdom’s legal jurisdiction the day after reports were made to the Order by one of their own clerics, Father Cocchi, (who saw a boy in his pyjamas coming out of Romano Nardo’s room at an uneartthly hour one morning).

Father Romano Nardo’s Child Abuse Accusation

Thirty years later, when that same Victim confronted the Order with Father Romano Nardo’s historical criminal acts of child abuse in detail, the Order recalled Nardo from the Missions.

Eventually, it was admitted by the Comboni Missionary Order, in a letter dated 17 May 1997, that an Inquiry had concluded, in true clerical masterful understatement, that Father Nardo 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 detail of the baptismal rite of mutual purification of genitals in which the child was induced to participate – and it does not mention the naked child lying upon the naked body of the priest who was breathing the Spirit of Jesus into the boys mouth.

That sign of the cross, to which they refer, 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.

No Extradition of Father Nardo

The latter, Father Romano Nardo, who is alleged to have committed such masochistic and macabre sexual crimes veiled in religious overtones against a series of young boys at the Mirfield seminary in Yorkshire England,  has been prevented from extradition to the United Kingdom by doubtful claims over two decades that he is not fit to travel.

I use the word “doubtful” in the following context which is that: after almost 27 years working in Africa, Father Nardo (who returned from Africa late 1995 at the age of 54 to attend an internal Comboni Inquiry into the allegations against him), would, according to correspondence forwarded to the Victim by Father David Glenday, the Superior General of the Order in 1997, “be able to return to active ministry in the missions within a month”.

Yet in 1999, after his further four years sojourn in the peaceful, green valleys of the pleasant city of Verona, Italy, the Superior General, Father Enrique Sanchez stated in correspondence that Father Romano Nardo was unable to travel because he had become “worn out by many years working in Africa”!

Was it, perhaps, that this sudden loss of health was something to do with the fact that in 1999 the West Yorkshire Police had wanted to question Father Nardo about criminal charges of child sexual abuse – that he had already admitted he had perpetrated ?

Mother House in Verona

The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has rigorously confined this cleric to the Mother House in Verona Italy since 1997 (almost two decades to date) so that he “does not have access to children”. Father Nardo, currently aged 72, has agreed, apparently, to this confinement – which is to last, it seems, until the end of his days.

I ask myself “why would the Comboni Order confine him for so long and why would Father Nardo accept his confinement for acts committed in 1970 which were merely “inappropriate”? Such “life imprisonment” is in excess of many State law authorities’ penal punishment limits for a single, albeit dispicable, crime of child sexual abuse.

Clearly, as in the cases of Archbishop Aldo and Cardinal-Archbishop Barbarin, the Superior Generals of the Comboni Missionary Order (that is Fathers David Glenday and Enrique Sanchez) who are closely associated to the decision of the long confinement of Father Nardo, are, in true clerical, tradition, “masters of understatement” in matters of criminal child sexual abuse.

Call it Sexual Abuse not Inappropriate Behaviour

They need education – and so I offer it here: the abuse perpetrated agaist seminarian Victims of Father Romano Nardo at Mirfield were not acts of “inappropriate behaviour”, but serious and heinous crimes of sexual abuse against children.

So grave are such crimes that the United Nations Convention against Torture actually described child sexual abuse as a form of torture on account of its cruel and punitive nature – and, unsurprisingly in 2014, even the Vatican agreed to that definition. The truth is that Father Romano Nardo is alleged to have abused many boys – and in the cases of some – he destroyed their lives and, subsequently, the lives of their families.

Father Romano Nardo is, thus, an alleged criminal that Fathers David Glenday and Enrique Sanchez have actively protected and in the case of the latter, prevented from facing questions by the law authorities of the United Kingdom. They are thus allegedly complicit in his alleged crimes – which they have sought to downplay, in true clerical fashion and deceitful understatement, as merely “inappropriate behaviour” .

Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie

Moreover, the current Superior General, Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, (to whom the Comboni Survivors pleaded for dialogue when he was elected, but from whom they received no response), is still intent on the further destruction of victims of child sexual abuse – as is witnessed by the scurrilous and malicious accusations he has authorised to be heaped on a victim of that abuse at a hearing in the Verona Criminal Court.

Why has Father Tesfaye, the Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order and his Curia committed themselves to this action? It is to deflect the “truth” of the scale of child sexual abuse within that Order ever being fully uncovered.

It is to disguise to the Vatican and to the Worldwide Catholic Church their complicity in harbouring a paedophile so as to protect themselves from the implementation of the Ecclesial action of dismissal from the clerical state under 401.2 of Canon Law.

Rightful Justice for Abuse Victims

It is to deter further Victims from telling their stories and seeking rightful justice. I declare, however, that both he – and the Order have already failed in that venture – for the allegations of 1000 crimes of child sexual abuse committed by clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, at the Mirfield Seminary, Yorkshire, England and their every attempt to deny them and hide them are now known globally – from the Vatican to the furthest reaches of each continent.

“No! No! No!”, I hear Father Tesfaye exclaiming, “The case in the Verona Criminal Court against the Victim of alleged crimes of child sexual abuse is nothing to do with me. It has been brought by Father Nardo’s own Court appointed legal Guardian”.

Well, yes, technically it has, but it has the fingerprints of Father Tesfaye and the Comboni Missionary Order Curia all over it. Indeed it has their big footprint right in the middle of it – as I will explain. The claim, which is, I suggest, factually devoid of every grain of truth whatsoever anyway – is that of “tresspass”.

Abuse Victim Walked Through Open Gate

The charge against the Victim who walked through an open gate which had no signs stating “No Entry” in sight, the Victim who walked through an open door and spoke to the Receptionist, the Victim who was shown into the Chapel by the Receptionist and who contacted Father Nardo on the Victim’s behalf to see him – and the Victim who returned on two occasions at agreed times for further meetings – cannot be brought against the Victim by a Legal Guardian appointed by the Court on behalf of Father Nardo. Why?

Well it is quite simple really : Father Nardo is not the registered owner of the Verona Mother House and its grounds. The Comboni Missionary Order, or a legal entity nominated on its behalf, is the registered owner of the Verona Mother House. Only the registered owner, or the legal representative of the registered owner, would be able, technically, to bring a charge – even this false charge – of trespass against the Victim.

Nardo’s Legal Guardian

Of course, it may be that the Legal Guardian appointed by the Court is the Comboni Missionary Order in disguise. In fact such a deception would be par for the course of an Order that has endeavoured to deflect all criticism of its behaviour for decades.

That is beside the point. Father Tesfaye and his Curia have overlooked this small detail. That charge of trespass, implanted within a case said to have been brought on behalf of Father Nardo by his Court appointed Legal Guardian, is the big footprint of the Comboni Missionary Order itself.

Indeed, I suspect that Father Nardo knows little or nothing of this legal case brought technically by his legal guardian on his behalf in the Verona Criminal Court.

Abuse Victim Bashing by Comboni Missionaries

It is brought, duplicitously, I suggest, by the Comboni Missionary Order itself to deflect from itself any criticism that the Comboni Missionary Order is engaging in one of their regular bouts of “victim bashing”!

When a storm suddenly threatens, it is wise to change tak and alter the windward direction of sail. Failure to do so has consequences.

If the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, continues to protect paedophile criminals, whilst lashing out against distressed victims seeking succour and understanding, events will surely come to overwhelm them.

Mark Murray in Verona — by Brian Mark Hennessy

Mark Murray in Verona

By Brian Mark Hennessy

 

In his final paragraph of his narrative at Santa Marta in 2014, His Holiness, Pope Francis said, “Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps”. This is the reference to Peter who had thrice denied that he knew Christ – and the cock crowed as Christ had foretold that it would. That Cock continues to crow within the Catholic Church as clerics obfuscate, as secrecy covers the truth, as the avoidance of scandal denies justice, as Victims like Christ himself are falsely accused, ill-used, have suffering upon suffering heaped upon them by a sometimes un-Christian, malicious priesthood which is akin to that of the Pharisees and Saducees who were bent on preserving their hierarchical dominance, their self-deception of moral superiority and the comforts of their “way of life”. Peter wept for his sins of denial and gained Redemption. Yet, there will be no Redemption for those clerics of the Catholic Church who continue to deny the sexual abuse of children in their care.

 

The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have been severely wounded by the accusations of numerous incidents of sexual abuse of minors by clerics of their order – yet they show none of the repentance of Peter. They have not yet taken the trouble to undergo the rigorous and painful self-examination necessary to grow morally and spiritually enough in order to accept the reality that members of their Order abused kids and that they knew about, did nothing about it – and have concealed it and denied it ever since. The psychologist, Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, puts it well: “The earliest response of the (Church) institution is to preserve its long-held identity as a source of goodness and godliness. Yes, its leaders acknowledge in a vague way that of course there is sin within the church, but the sense is always that sin is somehow a general thing and not assigned to specified actors in the church drama. I sin, you sin, we all sin is an implied mantra that attempts to diminish the criminality and evil of priests who sexually violate kids, and of bishops (and religious Superiors) who protect perpetrators and cover up abuse. Church officials lie, deny and project blame on victims, on parents of victims, on a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, on bad apple priests, on the ’60s and on the media. They can see the enemy and it is not them”.

 

A British Admiral, famously, once put a telescope to his blind eye and announced, “I see no ships!” and he then proceeded to disobey his orders. The Comboni Missionary Order in their cruel, moral blindness have claimed, “I see no Victims!” and they have then proceeded to ignore every moral creed, Church Canon, Civil Law, obligations to the Bishops’ Conferences of the British Isles, their undertakings to Safeguarding Practices and their very own Code of Conduct. Their Redemption, that can only be gained through Gospel-inspired humility. Yet any repentance on their part is a far distant hope, as the following tale witnesses:

 

A meeting between Mark Murray, one of many Survivors of clerical sexual abuse at the Comboni Missionary Order’s Mirfield seminary, Yorkshire and his Abuser, Father Romano Nardo, had always been denied by the Superior Generals of the Comboni Missionary Order, but Mark never gave up on the possibility of the chance of achieving an understanding as to why the abuse had taken place – why this man who had so befriended him as a child – had then cruelly betrayed his trust and destroyed his innocence. Thus in April 2015, Mark Murray took it upon himself to journey from North Wales to Verona in Italy in a final attempt to confront his Abuser. Mark has been in trauma for the most part of his life. For his own peace of mind Mark needed to know “Why?” this priest, who had already admitted that he had taken the boyhood Mark Murray to his bed, had committed the long series of sexual crimes against him. He knew those crimes had taken place – because they happened to him – and the details of the abuse recurred constantly in his mind. Since Mark had first made the allegations of abuse, the Order had brought Mark’s abuser back from Uganda investigated the allegations and then confined him to the Mother House of the Order for some two decades so that he had no further contact with children – and that priest had accepted his confinement without apparent complaint. It can be logically deduced the neither such confinement by the Order nor acceptance of it by the abuser would have been reasonable behaviour if there was not good cause!

 

As Mark Murray arrived at the Verona Mother House, he walked through the open gateway and up the path and then straight in through their first set of sliding doors. There he asked the receptionist if he could go and pray in the chapel; she said that he could – and opened the next set of doors and pointed him in the direction of the chapel door. He entered the chapel and walked around it and then sat at the back on one of two chairs. He composed himself and then decided “This is it!” and that that was the moment he needed to face Father Nardo. So he went back to the receptionist and, using the name of Christophoro, the Italian equivalent of his third name, he asked her to see Padre Romano Nardo. He listened as the receptionist was speaking on her intercom and announcing to Father Nardo that Christophoro was here in the chapel. Whilst Mark was sitting there in the chapel, he was crying in his heart, not knowing what to do. Father Nardo was on his way and he was afraid of losing his courage at the last moment. Then the sound of a cuckoo, and the yaffing call of a Green Woodpecker distracted him, calmed him and gave him strength.

 

When Father Nardo entered the room, he looked at Mark Murray in complete shock. Then, after a few seconds Mark said, “ Do you remember me?” Father Nardo appeared unable to speak and initially stood in silence, saying nothing, but then mouthed inaudibly the word “No” and so Mark said “I am Mark Stephen Christopher Murray.” There was no response from the priest, who then sat down next to his unexpected visitor. The two remained there, side by side in silence, for a long time – each struggling to recall the events of the sordid past that they had experienced together. “Do you remember Mirfield?” Mark persisted. “Look at me! Look at me! Can you look at me?” After a while, Mark then said, “Do you realise what effect the abuse you did to me has had on my life, my wife’s life and my children’s life? You abused me. I spent many years thinking I would wake up one morning and start abusing children because I was abused by you.”. Father Nardo got off his chair and knelt on the floor mumbling : “If it is my fault that you bear a heavy cross, I believe I should ask the Lord for forgiveness, for having erred. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. If what happened in your life was caused by me and if what you are saying is true, I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness”. Mark Responded, “I came here to forgive you”. Mark Murray then told Father Nardo to get the Superior or someone in authority. Father Nardo left the chapel. Mark waited for about ten minutes and as Father Nardo had not returned, he went outside and discovered Father Nardo walking up and down the corridor. He was on his own and then another man appeared. Mark noticed that he was a member of the Order, but he recollects that this man had more the manner of a “Security Official” than a cleric. The “Official” could not speak English and so Father Nardo had to translate what Mark was saying to him. It was a surreal experience Mark later remarked. Mark asked the “Official”, if he knew who he was. Nardo translated and , yes, the “Official” knew his identity. The two clerics argued then about how Mark had managed to get in the house and why Father Nardo had come down to see him. Soon after this, Mark left saying that he would be back the next day to speak to Father Sanchez. As it was stated then that Sanchez, the Superior General, was in Rome, Mark said, “Get him to fly back from Rome. Get the Superior of this house here tomorrow. I will be back”. He left, shaking, crying and struggling to retain his self control.

 

The next day, Mark returned to the Verona Mother House of the Order and he was let in. This time a different Priest arrived who said that he was the Vice Superior of the house. He was surly in his manner and Mark was already on his guard for an unpleasant encounter. It was hot and Mark asked for some water. The response from the Vice-Superior was that there was no need for Mark to be there and he then threatened Mark with the Italian law of trespass for being on private land. When Mark asked the priest if Father Nardo was there, the priest said that he was not. The priest again threatened Mark with the force of Italian law and in a game of semantics, the Vice Superior changed tactics and said words to the effect of, “Father Nardo is not here. You can see he is not here. He is not in this room. Can you see him?”. After further unsatisfactory exchanges, Mark turned to leave with the Priest calling after him in slanderous and defamatory words to the effect that Mark was just another “money grabber”. Mark said that he would return in the evening at 6.00 pm. The Priest told him that the Superior of the house, who was apparently in Bari in the South East of Italy, had decided to come back early to see him and Mark should be happy that he had decided to do so. Mark responded, “How dare you tell me when I can be happy”. The Vice Superior laughed in sardonic derision at Mark and smirked as Mark turned to leave.

 

Mark returned at 6.00pm as arranged and introduced himself as Mark Murray. The Vice Superior and the “Official” arrived and Mark was led into a side room where he was to wait. Mark asked for a glass of water and said that he wanted to see the Superior of the House and the Superior General, Enrique Sanchez. At that point the “Official” left. The Vice Superior remained in the room standing. He rubbed his eyes, refused to answer questions and distracted himself by fiddling with the door handle. Mark told him that he was the most arrogant man that he had ever met. The Vice Superior laughed scornfully and replied that Mark was the first person in all his 75 years of life that had ever told him that he was arrogant. The Priest had not liked that charge of arrogance. Mark noticed how mortified and taken aback he was and so he said to the Vice Superior, “You have no empathy, nor understanding about the psychological abuse you and your order continue to do to many men that were abused by your priests at Mirfield. How do you sleep at night?” The Vice-Superiors response was, “I sleep very well”.

 

The “Official” then returned with the message that it was not the Superior of the House that Mark needed to speak to, but the Superior General, Enrique Sanchez, who was in Rome. The Vice Superior and the “Official” then went outside and had a conversation in Italian. On entering the room again, the “Official” informed Mark that the Order’s legal representative was on his way. He arrived about 5 minutes later – obviously having been briefed of Mark’s presence beforehand. Mark left the room and asked the legal representative if he spoke English, but the man intimated that he did not. Mark repeated that he wanted Enrique Sanchez “to come here to Verona and tell him why he was harbouring a child abuser in the Verona Mother House”. They were taken aback by this charge and they countered by threatening Mark again that he had broken the Italian law on privacy by entering a private house – to which Mark responded that he had entered through an open door. They then said that Mark had broken a law by not using his full name, albeit “Christopher” was one of his names and presumably, he can use which of his names that he wants, and they said that they were now on the phone to the Carabinieri. Mark left.

 

The Superior General never came to speak to Mark, but the Superior of the House, who had cut his holiday short arrived back in Verona and a meeting was arranged for the next day. On arrival, Mark noted immediately that the Superior had a more relaxed manner than his deputy and he introduced himself as “John” and offered Mark coffee. Nevertheless, it was a relatively brief meeting and the outcome was not positive. Mark said, “I saw Nardo yesterday” and the immediate response from the Superior was, “You are not supposed to see him.” Mark asked, “Why not?” and the response was, “Because he is here for a special reason – he is not well and so he cannot see anybody. The only person you should be in touch with is Father General. Here we want privacy; we are sick persons. We do not want you to encounter anybody here. I do not know anything (else). The only thing I know is we do not want you to meet anybody here.” Mark then said, “I met Nardo here two days ago.” and the rejoinder from the Superior was, “You were not supposed to – he is not well.” The Superior continued and asked, “Do you know Father Martin Devenish?” Mark’s reply was , “Yes.” “You deal with him?” inquired the Superior. “I do not.” was Mark’s answer and he continued, “He threatened me with the police last time I spoke with him.” The Superior then moved the conversation again – on to the inevitable subject – and asked, “How can the institute apologise? For what?”   “The abuse!” Mark responded. To that the Superior said, “I cannot say anything.” Mark’s reply was, “That is all I get. Everyone says to me, “I cannot talk (to you). The only person that has talked to me was Nardo. You are not talking to me!”. “(That is) because I have nothing to say,” was the Superior’s response. Mark was feeling frustrated at the lack of any substantive response and stated, “You have a man here in this house who abused children!” The Superior replied, “And he is taken care of.” Mark continued, “I came two days ago and he came down stairs to see me!”. The Superior replied blandly, “Somebody made a mistake.” The Father Superior continued, “Rather than concentrating on an apology you should look towards the future with a positive attitude. (Being) here will not help you in any way. So it does not pay for you to stay in Verona because you (will) not see anybody.” Mark responded, “I am here until I see someone who apologises.” The reply from the Priest was, “You will be waiting in vain.” At this Mark asked in exasperation, “Why are (the Comboni Missionaries) so frightened of apologising? You (only) say you will pray for me!” The pious rejoinder of the priest was, “There is nothing greater than prayer.”It was not what Mark wanted to hear and he said in a determined tone, “It has not helped me!” Then the final words of the Father Superior were, in the circumstances, a lame, “I hope it helps!.”

 

Mark realised that since his arrival nothing had changed. Their cold hearts remained frozen. Their ears were still deaf to cries for help and the need for suffering to be addressed. The Order’s denials to his plight had been re-stated with the same indifference that the Order had displayed for years previously. It had been demonstrably stated, in fact, that his needs were subordinate to those of the paedophile priest who had abused him as a child and who had scarred his life ever since. He had been offered not one word of comfort or hope. He had received none of the assurances he had been seeking. There was no breakthrough, no offer of apology, no reconciliation, just prayers and more prayers. In an unwilling moment of frustration, resignation and a sense of failure, he said a curt, “Goodbye!” and left. Mark thought to himself “More prayers!” He did not want their prayers. He had had enough of their prayers over the years. Their prayers were just a convenient and pious “cop out” that shirked their true responsibilities to the Victims of this world. Their prayers had not assuaged his anxieties and suffering. An apology, just might have been the start of a new beginning. An apology turned out to be a hope too far!

 

The meetings described above are worthy of comment for what happened was not just a chilling exposition of the arrogance and pitiless behaviour of clerics in our own age, but it was a role reversal of sorts. The former Victim had metamorphosed and was now a man of courage. He had arrived unannounced in the den of the Abuser and those protecting him and he had suddenly caught them off guard. The Abuser, Father Romano Nardo, could not look Mark Murray, the Victim, in the face. When people avert their gaze they pretend not to see what they have just seen and pretend not to realise what they have just realised. For a man accused of crimes, his mind would then have harboured the fear of losing, in the future, the things that he now has. Father Nardo was wounded by the meeting and in trauma. He had suddenly had to deal with the confusion that his self-deception of a lifetime had been a lie. He had thought this moment would never come and that his life-time of comfortable self-belief would have continued until he was committed to his grave. He had made an “if” apology, but what was that apology for? He had not conceded his guilt. That would have destroyed him totally and he was not able to endure that. So his “if” apology was not a specific apology for crimes committed, but it took the form of a vague and evasive comment which had no precise meaning. In those moments, he had been faced with a myriad of mental tasks to grapple with. His mind was unable to grasp control of the unexpected dilemma of his “guilt” for crimes and suffering. So, he must have wrestled in his mind with his options, which were to remain silent or to walk away.

 

The Vice Superior of the Order, who perceived himself to be the giant in his own cloister, was diminished in stature and displayed the apparent, unconcerned behaviour that many men demonstrate when they are faced with unexpected and disturbing odds that had not been  previously encountered. He suddenly could not continue to play his role in the Order’s game of “deafness to the cries of victims” any more and his contempt for the abuse Survivor was akin to those pointless efforts that are made when someone of self-perceived esteem is confronted by a degree of strength and determination to which he is unused. Thus he sought to retain control by derision and by taunting the Victim of his Order’s neglect, insensitivity and indifference. There is another word for this kind of arrogance. It is called “Revictimisation”.

 

The Superior of the Order’s Mother House was more relaxed and pleasant to Mark Murray. However, his words were not what Mark had wanted to hear for what he said in effect was. “Go Home. You will get nothing from us. Buck up and get over it!”. That is not the sort of advice one would expect from a concerned and well-intentioned pastor, but more the language of someone who is totally disinterested in the person being addressed. This is important to note in the overall context of this document. Mark Murray is a Victim who has contemplated suicide. The Comboni Missionary Order know this as it is in his statement. In the United Kingdom, suicides amongst men of all ages have been increasing year on year and currently they account for almost 80% of all suicides. It has been deduced by substantial research that one of the most significant factors contributing to male suicides is the pressure of society on men to repress anxieties and get on with life. “Man up!”, “Grit your teeth”, “Grin and bear it” and “Get a grip” are the common expressions aimed at men anguished by a dilemma or problem. Thus what this research reveals is that a man’s induced inability to talk about his anxieties to another person and his failed attempts to manage those anxieties within himself is one of the main contributory factors of a male person’s suicide. In effect, therefore, the Comboni Missionary Order’s failure to accept any responsibility for the abuse of minors at their Mirfield seminary, coupled with their determined efforts to have no dialogue with Victims about it at all is a most damaging strategy. Mark Murray had arrived in Verona after many decades of suffering from anxieties about his abuse. He needed to talk about it. He had made many attempts to get a dialogue going and one by one they had refused to talk to him. That continuous failure of care of the Order that had at times been hostile, is what had forced him to make his trek to Verona unannounced. What happened? He was told to go away and sort it out himself. That is not just devastating revictimisation. For some, such disinterested denial of dialogue could be a “death sentence”.

 

Unknown to the Order, the Italian Media Company, La Repubblica, had expressed a wish to cover the story of Mark Murray’s visit to Verona to seek dialogue with his Abuser. A co-operation on the visit thus ensued betweeen them and was ultimately revealed to the Order. The subsequent actions of the Order in the days following this confrontation appears to demonstrate that they may have glimpsed the realisation that their game of denial was at an end and that a new unpleasant and unfamiliar reality called the exposure of the “truth” was rushing towards them with gathering speed. Soon, the exposure of a sordid history of lies and cover-up might mean that their control of their little Veronese empire might be at an end and that then only moral oblivion awaited them. Their arrogance and pride and false self-esteem, in which they had found such comfort, had become the harbinger that would foreshadow their own ultimate downfall. Their response to Mark Murray’s visit and their fear of exposure to the world at large was to try to scare him off. Thus they informed La Repubblica news outlet who was running the story of Mark’s visit to Verona, that they intended to sue Mark Murray on the grounds that:

 

 

  • Firstly, they claimed that Mark had entered the Mother House using a false name to gain entry, albeit Christopher is one of his names and he can choose, presumably, whichever of his names he wishes to use.
  • They claimed that he was drunk, because their lack of understanding and empathy failed to assist them in the realisation that what they were witnessing was not drunkenness, but the reactions of a man whom they had denied for two decades – and that this venture to seek an apology, truth and reconciliation had taken enormous courage and emotional control – and thus there had been a severe toll on him in terms of strain, agitation, frustration. foreboding and fear of both failure and a loss of courage.
  • They claimed that his drunkenness had forced them to call the Carabinieri – albeit they told him that they had called the police because he was trespassing on private property. In respect to that claim of trespass that had been made by them, they appear to have neglected that he had walked through an open gate and an open door and talked to the receptionist, who then allowed him to enter the chapel and who subsequently called Father Nardo to meet him. Moreover, their claim of trespass was stridently false in relation not only to the first visit of Mark, but also for the remaining visits, because the Comboni Missionary Order had agreed for him to return for further meetings at specific times, which he had done.
  • They claimed he might return and injure Father Nardo for which there was not a shred of evidence – for the two had sat in silence side by side in the Chapel for most of the visit and had exchanged only a relatively few quiet words.
  • They claimed that Father Nardo had now been victimised and that Mark Murray was the persecutor, albeit Mark Murray was only asking for an apology, which is what a Victim would ask for and he did not make any threats. Father Nardo may have suffered “trauma”, but he was not the “victim”. He was the Abuser of the Victim.
  • They claimed that Mark Murray and all the other claimants associated with him, were only trying to extract money from the Order, albeit Mark Murray did not mention the word “money” once, but what he did say was that he wanted an “apology”.

 

Before these events, Mark Murray was invited, along with two other survivors, by the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service to address a Conference in Rome that will be attended by the English speaking Bishops of the world and by professionals and experts in the field of Clerical Child Abuse. After his invitation was announced, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have, through the courts of Verona, initiated prosecution proceedings for crimes that Mark Murray committed against Father Romano Nardo and the Order whilst he was in their house in Verona.  The journalist, Marco Ansaldo, who covered the original story in the Italian News outlet “La Repubblica”, has also been summoned. It seems that to save themselves from the difficult process of rigorous and painful self-examination, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have decided to discredit both the Victim of Child Sexual Abuse and his Messenger.

 

As Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea has said of Clerics of the Catholic Church who seek to conceal the sexual abuse of children, “I sin, you sin, we all sin is the implied mantra that attempts to diminish the criminality and evil of priests who sexually violate kids, and of bishops (and religious Superiors) who protect perpetrators and cover up abuse. Church officials lie, deny and project blame on victims, on parents of victims, on a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, on bad apple priests, on the ’60s and on the media. They have seen the enemy and it is not them!”

 

Well – the sexual abuse of children surely is a sin theologically, but it is also a crime – and covering up a crime and protecting paedophiles is complicity in the crime. The populations of the world understand that and civil institutions of the world acknowledge that in their legal systems. The Catholic Church and its Bishops and Religious Leaders cannot claim extra-terrestial exemption – and they will be brought to account – if not in the Law Courts that can impose sanctions – in the much more devastating Court of public opinion.

PEOPLE ARE STILL COMING FORWARD

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse at Mirfield

Ex seminarians of the Mirfield Comboni Missionary Junior Seminary are still discovering  – even after four years of the blog’s existence – this  site for the first time.

Some cannot comprehend that abuse happened at Mirfield,  and others that were sexually abused believed that they were the only ones that suffered abuse there.

Some of the men, for various reasons, are not ready to talk or write about such experiences.

Some are waiting till their parents or parent dies as they believe disclosing the abuse would cause untold pain and suffering to them – something I can personally understand through my experience.

All have said that finding  the blog has helped them.

Many have said that they hope to be able to write and talk someday about the sexual abuse they suffered whilst they were at Mirfield.

Mark Murray

Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie Voted New Superior General of Comboni Missionaries

Fr Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie

The Comboni Missionaries have a new Superior General. They are currently involved in their General Chapter XVIII in Rome until October 4th. One of their final acts of the General Council was to elect Fr. Gebresilasie to the role of Superior General of the Order. He is the first African to have held this title.

I think that I remember, from my time at Mirfield, that Daniel Comboni predicted that eventually Africa would bring the missions back to Europe. That prediction has come true in a big way wih the election of Fr Gebresilasie.

He is 46 years old so still has plenty of energy for the role.

He was assistant General in charge of Basic Formation and the provinces/ delegations of English-speaking Africa (except Eritrea) and Mozambique. Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie was born on September 22, 1969, in Harar (Ethiopia).

Comboni Missionary Confreres

His vote was almost unanimous but he thanked this who had reservations about him saying ” I would like to say thanks to the confreres who have expressed their reservations, their hesitation. I agree with you and thank you, because I myself am afraid, I too have my reservations and my hesitations. So thanks for your realism.”

He said that the Comboni Missionaris were on the side of the poor.

He continued “Our Institute, too, has its problems. Faced by all this, I feel small, a little confrere who has had the experience of the great forgiveness of God and confreres”.

Father Gebresilasie, Comboni Missionaries Superior General

Father Gebresilasie, Superior General of the Comboni MIssionaries

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse of Minors

He didn’t say, specifically, what the problems were but let’s hope that he sees the abuse of minors at the seminary in Mirfield in England in the Sixties and Seventies, and the subsequent cover-up,, and not the cost of litigation and bad publicity from it, as one of the problems facing the Order

He then accepted the role of Superior General of the Order replacing the outgoing Fr. Enrique Sánchez who was a major player in the cover-up of abuse at the Order.

To anoint the new leader of the 1,700 Comboni Missionaries worldwide Fr Sanchez said:-

“I, Enrique Sánchez González, declare the Rev. Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie the elected Superior General of the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

And the Comboni MIssionaries had a new leader.

New Superior General

Is he a new broom who will sweep clean? Will he take the Comboni Missionaries in a new direction?

Will he face the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors at Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies head on and deal with it appropriately or will he see the abused as the problem as previous Superior Generals, including Father Sanchez, has done?

Let’s hope it’s the former and not the latter.

Father Romano Nardo saying Mass in 2008

Father Romano Nardo saying Mass in 2008 in his home town of Pordenone

The Mirfield 12 wish Father Gebresilasie well and we look forward to a new beginning.