23 June 2022, The Tablet

This group of abuse survivors struggled for years for recognition. Then they met the Pope

They just want the leaders of the Combonis to meet them, acknowledge the abuse and apologise.

This group of abuse survivors struggled for years for recognition. Then they met the Pope

Bede Mullen, the spokesman for the Comboni Survivors’ Group


The Comboni Missionaries have refused to give survivors a personal apology for the abuse they su?ered at a junior seminary in Yorkshire. But now, by meeting them in a private audience, Pope Francis has made a dramatic intervention in the story

In the library of the Vatican’s apostolic palace, Pope Francis, seated in his wheelchair, listened intently as a group of eight men from Britain and Ireland shared their stories of abuse. As he heard about the sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse that took place at a junior seminary in West Yorkshire, Francis was described by one witness as “visibly shaken and upset”. At one point, he held his hands in horror and covered his face.

A Pope in pain, unable to walk, sought to lift some of the pain from those who have undergone decades of suffering. The meeting took place on 13 June in the room where the Pope normally meets heads of state and vis- iting dignitaries. The survivors, now in their sixties or early seventies, are former pupils of St Peter Claver College in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, which was run by the Verona Fathers, an Italian religious congregation also known as the Comboni Missionaries.


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