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.

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Abuse Victims Ask Comboni Missionaries to Turn New Chapter

Comboni Missionaries and Sexual Child Abuse

The Comboni Missionaries worldwide have gathered in Rome for their XV111th General Chapter. It is taking place from August 29th to October 4th.

The 72 capitular representatives, 45 of whom are from Europe, 14 from the Americas and 13 from Africa, are representing over 1,700 Comboni Missionaries scattered throughout the world.

On September 29th and 30th they will elect their new supreme leader, the Superior General.

Comboni Missionary Seminary in Mirfield

Last year, the Comboni Missionaries paid out £120,000 (€166,000) to 12 men who claimed they were abused as children at the Comboni Missionaries seminary in Mirfield, England in the 1960s and 1970s.

They claim that they were 11 years old to 15 years old when they were repeatedly abused by three Comboni Missionaries, Fr John Pinkman, Father Domenico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo and a lay teacher, Michael Riddle, at the seminary. There are several other outstanding claims.

The men claim that the Comboni Missionaries have never admitted the abuse and have never apologised for it.

Indeed, they claim that there has been a cover-up of the abuse, even though those accused were sent away from the seminary or brought home from the missions in Africa when the accusations were first made at the time.

Father Romano Nardo and Yorkshire Police

Mark Murray went to Verona to confront his abuser, Father Roman Nardo, in the Comboni Missionaries house in Verona earlier this year.

Father Nardo had been brought home from the missions in Uganda when Mark first made his accusations in the mid-Nineties and Mark was told that he would be kept away from children.

UK police want to interview Father Nardo but have been refused permission by the Order who say he is not in good enough health to answer their questions.

The UK police say that they are satisfied that a crime has been committed and that they would have sought the arrest two of those Comboni Missionaries accused of abuse, Fr Pinkman from Liverpool and Fr Valmaggia from Como if they had been still alive.

They have been trying for years to extradite Father Nardo, who is from Pordenone, but to no avail.

Comboni Missionaries Chapter XVIII Election Council

Now Mark, and the others who were abused are asking that the Comboni Missionaries start afresh and elect someone who has been untainted by the abuse and subsequent cover-up.

Said Mark, “Pope Francis has apologised for the abuse in the Catholic Church and has demanded that others take action.

“However, the Comboni Missionaries have refused to even admit that any abuse took place and refuse to apologise to those to whom they had a duty of care”.

Pope Francis, Comboni Missionaries and Child Sexual Anuse

In his recent visit to the USA, Pope Francis said “The crimes of sexual abuse against children cannot be repeated.”

Said Gerry McLaughlin, another of the Mirfield 12, “We ask the Comboni Missionaries to make a clean break with the past and elect someone who has been untainted by the abuse and the subsequent cover-up.

“We ask them to elect someone who follows Pope Francis’s teaching on child abuse and who will work with the abused to make sure that the ‘crime of sexual abuse of children’ cannot happen again as Pope Francis wishes.

“The Mirfield 12 would ask that the new Superior General meets with them at his earliest convenience to discuss how we can all move forward in resolving the abuse issues at Mirfield”.

Comboni Missionaries, It is time to admit past mistakes.

By  Frank McGinnis

Comboni Missionaries

I don’t know how many there might be. Some Comboni Missionaries must surely be having difficulty sleeping at night. Readers of this blog will know that many 12 year old boys who attended the Seminary at Mirfield still have nightmares. Yes, even 40 & 50 years later.

The crimes of Fr Pinkman, Fr Valmaggia and Fr Nardo may be termed ‘historic’, the pain is so very often a daily companion. The continued denial is an act of cowardice. The continued cover up is a betrayal of the very Catholic Faith your founder held so dear.

Mission Appeals

There can be little moral or spiritual worth in protecting the reputation of the Order if in doing so painful truths must be denied. Your presence in the UK enables a lucrative income. Honest Catholics donate money at your Mission Appeals to fill your coffers. Do you fear the loss of funds if the truth be told ?

Is it worth living a lie to maintain the rivers of cash ? Is it worth ignoring the sexual abuse of children ? There are many former Mirfield Seminarians you should be contacting.

Priestly Duty of Care

You have a basic priestly duty to offer help to those who suffered at your college. Through the blog we have helped a number come to terms with their past. We have offered to assist the Order in locating others.

The Comboni Missionaries have so far shown no interest in assessing the damage done in their house.

Shame on you Fathers, shame on every one of you.

The Forgotten Victims of Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

We have documented here the sexual abuse that took place in Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies at the hands of Father John Pinkman, Father Domenico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo as well as by lay teacher Michael Riddle.

Many of the ‘Boys’ who had been abused assumed that the other Boys would be sympathetic when hearing about the abuse they suffered at the hands of those priests and lay teacher when they were in their early teens.

However, this has not been the case as regards all of the Boys who were not abused.

Michael Riddle

This came to a head this week with the post about Michael Riddle, the lay teacher who abused several boys whom he taught at Mirfield.

This brought to a head this ‘disbelief’, if I can call it that, with an article from Andrew Routledge saying that he spent many an hour smoking a pipe in Riddle’s room without being molested or abused.

Another ex-Boy was angered by the article too and sent me an email saying that he didn’t want to receive any more emails with links to articles as he was “sick of listening to such crap”.

He then had an angry email exchange with Tony Smith.

Abused and Angry

The reaction from Andrew and this guy angered those who have been abused.

Their motivations have been questioned in the past by the Comboni Missionaries who have said that it’s all about the money.

However, I found Andrew’s article quite considered and natural. It was a natural reaction.

When a child in a family reports abuse by a parent or a relative, say an elder cousin or uncle, the standard reaction of others in the family is to protect the parent or relative who has been accused.

There is a disbelief that it happened. In fact the abused child is often vilified.

This is a knee-jerk reaction and often , but not always, opinion gradually turns around and blames the perpetrator and not the victim.

However, the victim feels abused twice, firstly by the perpetrator and then by those in the family who don’t believe them and sometimes go further than that and accuse them of lying and making it up.

Mirfield Family

At Mirfield, the priest and teacher there were more than just teachers. The priests, like the other boys there, were family. We had left our own families behind to become priests and this was our new family.

The ‘Fathers’ were our substiture fathers – especially those closest to us like Pinkman who was in charge of the junor school.

So, it is not surprising that some of the Boys who were not abused react in this way. Many of the Boys see their period as a happy, idyllic part of their lives.

They looked forward to the reunions where they would meet up with other Boys from that idyllic period.

Paedophile Monsters

Imagine their shock to be told by some of the other boys that the place was not so idyllic as they thought and that some of the priests and lay teachers that they idolised were actually paedophile monsters who preyed on multiple boys often as young as 11 years of age.

Others that they idolised, who were not paedophiles, were involved in covering it up and hiding their crimes from the police.

That must have been a terrible shock to the system to those coming to what they expected to be happy reunions.

Abuse Questions

A typical reaction would be “If he was a paedophile then why did he not abuse me?”

Of course, there are several potential reasons for that. Paedophiles tend to prey on those of a certain profile, i.e. those they see as most vulnerable. Indeed the abuse of several of the boys comenced after boys going to priests’ rooms, like Pinkie and Nardo, in tears from feeling homesick.

Those who were not abused can consider themselves very lucky. So many lives have been ruined by sexual absue by priests at Mirfield. It could have happened to them too.

Who can say why it was that the priests did not choose them to abuse. I don’t suppose that they could have abused everybody. There were 31 boys in first year alone when I was there. They could afford to pick their victims carefully.

Nothing said at the Time

“How come nothing was said at the time, if there boys abused when I was there?” is another standard reaction. Again this is natural and par for the course.

So many boys suffered in silence thinking tht they were the only ones. Indeed it was a surprise to them to find out at reunions (or by finding this blog) that it was happening to others – and by the same priests who abused them and who were telling them that they were special.

It’s also not entirely correct as several abuse victims reported their abuse at the time but were most ignored – although boys reporting their abuse did lead to Valmaggia and Pinkman beng moved on elsewhere immediately.

Loss of Their Innocent Childhood Memories

Although they were not abused themselves, some of these others are suffering a loss too – mabe not of their innocent childhood – but of their innocent childhood memories of an idyllic period and an idyllic place in their early lives.

Many don’t want to believe it, certainly at first.

They may even be angry at those who are destroying ther memories of this idyllic childhood at Mirfield and the ‘wonderful’ priests and lay teacher there.

Even if they believe it, they question the mortivations of those who say they were abused.

They also seek to protect the memory of the abuser, if they are dead.

They seek to protect those involved in making sure that the abusers were never prosecuted for their crimes and ensuring that the abusers were simply shifted elsewhere – possibly to abuse again.

Unsympathetic

Those abused are very angry at this.

How could they think like this after everything that happened to their ‘fellow boys’? Why have they no sympathy?

I would say to the abused that it is perfectly natural for these Boys to think this way.

It happens in every single family where abuse takes place.

I would say to The Abused “Let’s not villify them. Let’s explain. It is a shock to their systems. Their childhood memories have been dashed on the rocks and they don’t like it”.

Real Villains

I think that most of them (but not all) will come to see who the real villains are.

It was not the abuse victims who have ruined their idyllic memories of Mirfield.

It was the actions of the abusers that did this – and the actions of those who covered it up and who are currently still covering it up and hiding a sexual abuser of young children in Verona in Italy.

The abuse victims are only the messengers.

We say to those doubting them “Don’t shoot the messengers. Blame those whose actions blighted Mirfield – not those who told you about it”.

Thanks for your article Andrew.

If you wish to comment on ths article please do so below. We welcome comments from all people and whatever their views. We know that there are two sides to ths story.

After all, we are a family!

Comboni Missionaries Snub Pope Francis

No Place for Those Who Abuse Minors

Pope Francis sent out a letter on February 5th which stated that, in the Catholic Church, there is “no place for those who abuse minors”.

This letter appeared on the Comboni Missionaries own website http://www.Combonianum.org.

Yet the Comboni MIssionaries have always had plenty of places for those of their Order who abuse minors.

For Mirfield Infirmarian, Father Domenico Valmaggia, who abused many, many boys at the seminary in Mirfield, there was his home parish in the diocese of Como in Italy. That was one place that the Comboni missionaries found for those who abuse minors.

He was sent there after several boys told Father Robert Hicks that they had been abused by him. Needless to say the UK and Italian police were not told of his crimes and the Comboni Missionaries’ and Catholic Church’s procedures were not followed.

Father Pinkman

Then there was Father Pinkman, who was sent away after being reported by several of the boys at Mirfield. He abused, and ruined, the lives of many of the boys at Mirfield.

Once again the police were not told about his crimes and he was found places at other Comboni Missionary places such as in South Africa and also in the Westminster Diocese. It seems he worked for the Jumbulance.

According to Mark Murray “He was based at 39 Eccleston Square. I remember being told by a Comboni that he worked for the Catholic Bishop’s Conference”.

According to Brian Hennessy “After Westminster he went to Palestine. This was a deal between the Superior General and the then Archbishop of Boston which was arranged at a personal meeting between the two when the Superior General did a tour of the North American Province. From there he went to South Africa. There’s no indication that his Paedophilia was ever discussed with the Boston Archbishop of course”.

When he died, a Mass of Celebration was said, in, of all places, the chapel at the Seminary at Mirfield, just yards from the bedroom where he had perpetrated so many acts of sexual abuse aganst boys as young as 11 years of age. We are told that the homily for this monster was given by Father Robert Hicks.

Catholic Reformation

So, have the Comboni Missionaries reformed? Is this abuse and its cover-up a legacy of the past?

No, it is not!

Despite Pope Francis saying that there was ‘no place for those who abuse minors” as recently as February, the Comboni Missionaries still have at least one place for them as recently as May 2015.

That is in the Comboni Missionaries mother house in Verona in Italy where multi-abuser Father Romano Nardo is hidden out by the Comboni Missionaries.

Romano Nardo

Above is Father Romano Nardo concelebrating Mass with other priests in 2008 – long after he had been diagnosed as mentally unfit to answer police questions.

Sexual Abuse at Mirfield

For many years at Mirfield he sexually abused many boys, including Mark Murray.

When, many years later, in 1997, Mark reported this to the Comboni Missionaries, they immediately brought Father Nardo home from Uganda and told Mark that he would never have access to children again. It seems that he admitted his abuse.

However, once again, the Comboni Missionaries did not report this crime to the police – even though they appeared to act, on it themselves, as though they believed it and Father Nardo appears to have admitted it.

Father Romano Nardo saying Mass in 2008

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

West Yorkshire Police

Mark reported all this to West Yorkshire Police who have said that they believe that a ‘crime had been committed’. They put in place extradition procedures so that they could bring Father Nardo back to the UK for questioning.

They were refused permission, with the Comboni Missionaries saying his time in Uganda had made him incapable, mentally, of being interviewed.

This is despite the Comboni Missionaries leaving Father Nardo in a position of authority in Uganda for 20 years till 1977 until Mark Murray’s complaint. Surely if he had been affected badly by what had happened in Uganda many years before, they had failed in their duty of care to him by not bringing him home before Mark’s complaint.

Mother House in Verona

Indeed they brought him back to work at the hospital that the mother house in Verona has now become, where he has been till Mark’s recent trip to Verona.. That’s surely not a job for someone who is mentally incapable of answering questions.

Despite Mark’s recent visit to Verona to meet up with Father Nardo, the Comboni Missionaries still snub Pope Francis by providing a place for an abuser of young boys.

Said Pope Francis, in a letter this year which the Comboni Missionaries published, there is “no place for those who abuse minors”.

It appears that the Comboni Missionaries don’t ascribe to that view and continue to snub the Pope’s stated wishes.

Supreme Head of the Catholic Church Snubbed

Are they a schism?

Do the Comboni Missionaries not follow the Supreme Head of the Catholic Church?

If not, then whom do they follow – or are they a law unto themselves, both as regards the laws of the lands where they operate, and, as regards the laws and procedures of the Catholic Church and the stated wishes of its Supreme Head?

To see the letter from the Pope on the Comboni Missionaries own website click on http://combonianum.org/2015/02/05/no-place-for-those-who-abuse-minors/

Comboni Missionaries Abuse | Mark Murray Interview on Channel 4

Father Romano Nardo

After his sensational visit to Italy to confront his abuser, Father Romano Nardo. Mark Murray was interviewed for 5 minutes for Channel 4 News.

If you want to read and hear the interview click on Channel 4 Interviews Mark Murray

Channel 4 report that Mark secretly recorded an interview with Father Roman Nardo in the Comboni Missionaries House in Verona Italy. He had been given the camera watch by la Repubblica newspaper.

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

Mark had been abused by Nardo 45 years before repeatedly and had been asking for a meeting with Nardo for 45 years.

He had been repeatedly turned down.

So, he took matters into his own hands and flew to Verona to meet Nardo. He took them off guard. They hadn’t expected that.

Channel 4 News asked him all sorts of questions about the meeting, which you can read in the article and watch the video of the interview.

Forgive Me Says Nardo

In a crucial part of the video, published on La Repubblica’s website, Nardo comes close to admitting his abuse.

Mark says “Romano Nardo, do you know who I am? I think you do. Mark Murray. Do you remember me?”

Said Father Nardo “If it is my fault that you bear a heavy cross, I believe I should ask the Lord for forgiveness. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry.”

West Yorkshire Police

Mark believes that Nardo should be arrested, put on trial and imprisoned. However, Nardo is being protected by the Comboni Missionaries and they won’t hand him over to West Yorkshire Police who belive a crime has been committed and want to interview him.

Mark, however, says that he forgives Nardo.

Those who he cannot forgive, he says, are the Comboni Missionaries, and especially those who have frustrated his efforts to get justice and to get to meet with his abuser, Father Romano Nardo, over many, many years.

Even though there is a new Pope who is very much against clerical abuse, the Comboni Missionaries remain in the past.

Comboni Missionaries in Denial

Despite the mounting evdience, the Comboni Missionaries will not apologize, will not hand over a suspect for questioning to police and will not even admit that any abuse happened at Mirfield.

That is despite there being almost 1,000 documented instances of abuse on 18 boys at Mirfield by multiple priests and a lay teacher over two decades in the Sixties and Seventies.

Till the Comboni Missionaries admit the abuse happened and apologize to those who were abused then the campaign by the Mirfield 12 will continue.

Mark Murray Meets his Comboni Missionaries Abuser at Last

Mark Murray’s Abuser

Many, many years ago, in a seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire, run by the Comboni Missionaries, Mark Murray was repeatedly abused by a priest of that Order whilst he was just 14 years of age.

The priest’s name was Father Romano Nardo. There was an element of masochism, too, as Nardo scratched a cross on his own chest and that of Mark Murray as well.

Nardo was there from Italy till the summer of that year to learn English before being transferred to the English-speaking Missions in Uganda.

Missions in Uganda

Mark was regularly in Nardo’s room being abused for four months. He was spotted by another priest coming out of Nardo’s room at 6am. Shortly afterwards, Nardo was transferred to the Missions in Uganda a couple of months early.

The abuse has severely affected Mark’s life and that of his family. In the late Nineties, Mark reported Nardo to the order and they promptly brought him back from the Missions in Uganda after 20 years service there.

They told Mark that Nardo would never be allowed access to children again. They moved him to one of their buildings in Verona, Italy.

West Yorkshire Police

Mark also reported his abuse to West Yorkshire police. In the late Nineties they tried to get Nardo extradited to be interviewed and to face charges. However, this request was turned down by the Comboni Missionaries saying that Nardo wasn’t mentally able to be interviewed over it.

Despite this, Mark has pictures of Nardo concelebrating mass many years after that.

Mark has asked to meet Nardo many times. He has also asked for an apology from the order. He has been in touch with the No. 1 Comboni Missionary in England, Father Martin Devenish, who told him he would get the police onto him.

Comboni Missionaries

He contacted Father Enrique Sanchez, who is head of the Comboni Missionaries worldwide, but was rebuffed by him too. He also contacted Father David Glenday, the ex-head of the Comboni Missionaries, who now has a senior position at the Vatican. He asked Mark to write a letter to Father Sanchez. This got him no further.

It was at an impasse. The Comboni Missionaries not only refused to apologise but would not even admit that any abuse had taken place.

This is despite there being over 1,000 documented instances of abuse of 18 boys in the Sixties and Seventies at the seminary in Mirfield by several different priests and a lay preacher.

Verona Fathers Trip

So, Mark decided to take the matter into his own hands.

A few weeks ago, Mark decided to fly to Verona to try to meet his abuser in person. After all, he knew where he was.

Instead of just doing that he was advised to contact the local press there – otherwise he could end up in an Italian police cell. A bunch of local priests would be more likely to be believed than he would be.

It’s just as well that he did as the Comboni Missionaries were not only unsympathetic but they accused him of being drunk and called the police.

La Repubblica Newspaper

Luckily, though, Mark had contacted La Repubblica, a major newspaper in Italy.

They gave him a camera disguised as a wrist watch – and so he had evidence of what took place – and that he wasn’t drunk.

When Mark arrived, he asked reception if he could go into the chapel there. After a while, he plucked his courage and asked reception if he could speak to Father Romano Nardo. She went to fetch him.

When Nardo came out, he knew who Mark was within seconds.

You can find the La Repubblica article and the videos of the meeting between Mark and Nardo by clicking on Comboni Missionaries Abuser Meeting

There is a not very good Google Translate into English version here

Channel 4 News

Mark was later interviewd by Channel 4 Television in the UK.

After all of this, the Comboni Missionaries have still not apologized, still do not admit any abuse took place and have moved Nardo to another location in case he is harmed by Mark Murray.

Indeed, they are threatening to sue Mark.

When will they ever learn!

When will they ever learn!

If you want any further information on Mark’s case or any of the other abuse cases at Mirfiled, ust contact us.