The Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, who will this week give evidence at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), has apologised to victims of abuse in a pastoral letter to the archdiocese.
In the letter read out in parishes last weekend, the archbishop said to those affected by abuse: “As archbishop I offer you my sincere apologies for all that you have had to endure over the years. I am profoundly sorry that in a number of cases those who suffered such abuse were not at first believed. This has surely added to the burden of pain that they and their families have carried.”
IICSA is focusing on the Archdiocese of Birmingham as a test case for the Catholic Church in England and Wales. As former archbishop, Cardinal Vincent Nichols will also be called to give evidence at the public hearings in London. Archbishop Longley told his archdiocese that he and Cardinal Nichols intended to apologise publicly to victims and to all those hurt by the Church.
“Cardinal Vincent and I are at one in our sense of shame and sorrow. We are at one in our willingness to assist this public inquiry and to learn from its findings how best to safeguard all in our care and to respond promptly and compassionately to those who have been abused,” he wrote.
Two independent reports into safeguarding in the archdiocese have highlighted past failures and areas needing improvement. The archdiocese was working to implement their recommendations, the archbishop said.
At a preliminary hearing into the English Benedictine Congregation last week, abuse lawyers told IICSA that the Catholic Church must provide a statement to the inquiry on whether it is sufficiently organised to provide safeguarding.