Pope must make amends, say British abuse victims

LONDON Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:10pm BST

1 of 4. Members of the U.S. based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Therese Albrecht (L), Barbara Blaine (C) and Barbara Dorris hold portraits of themselves as youths, as they address the media during a protest outside Saint Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland September 15, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

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LONDON (Reuters) - Victims of abuse by Catholic priests urged the Vatican on the eve of Pope Benedict's visit to Britain to hand over lists of suspected offenders to the police to prevent further cases of clerical sex crimes.

Speaking in London on Wednesday, a group of victims and activists said the Vatican should go beyond verbal apologies and offer concrete steps to make amends over clergy abuse.

"The pope is the boss. He has the capacity to do these things. Words must be backed up by actions," said Peter Saunders, chief executive of a charity called the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

"We need the pope to say: 'I will hand over all information I have about abusing priests, wherever they are in the world, to the authorities of the countries where these people are being protected'," he told reporters.

Sue Cox, another campaigner, added: "Why the hell would I want him to apologise? What on earth would that do for the victims?"

The visit comes against the backdrop of the global sex abuse scandal, sour relations with the Anglicans, and discontent over the British taxpayer footing part of the bill.

Security will be tight throughout the four-day visit with campaigners planning several protests over a range of issues, including child abuse. Activists said, however, they expected the pope's visit to achieve little.

The Vatican has made sweeping revisions to its laws against sexual abuse but many victims say it is not enough.

In an open letter in the Guardian newspaper, more than 50 British public figures said the pope should not "be given the honour of a state visit" and accused him of failing to address cases of child abuse as well as other issues.

Margaret Kennedy, another campaigner, said activists had not been offered a meeting with the pope during the visit.

"We have been refused three times access to the pope," she said. "In other words, this visit means that the only way survivors can meet the pope is by protesting in the street."

David Greenwood, a lawyer representing the victims, said he was handling about 200 cases in England and Wales but progress was slow because many cases faced being thrown out as they happened too long ago.

He said: "A lot of the reasons people are coming forward late, is down to the abuse itself, with people not wanting to speak about it for years and years."