The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner has written about his sadness over the news his antecedent George Bell sexually abused a young child, saying it ‘has brought us a bewildering mix of deep and disturbing emotions’.
“In touching the legacy and reputation of George Bell, it yields a bitter fruit of great sadness and a sense that we are all diminished by what we are being told.
“Our starting point is response to the survivor. We remain committed to listening to all allegations of abuse with an open mind. In this case, the scrutiny of the allegation has been thorough, objective, and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties. We face with shame a story of abuse of a child; we also know that the burden of not being heard has made the experience so much worse. We apologise for the failures of the past.
“The revelation of abuse demands bravery on the part of a survivor, and we respect the courage needed to tell the truth. We also recognise that telling the truth provides a legitimate opportunity for others to come forward, sometimes to identify the same source of abuse.
“We also believe that in the Church of England as a whole, and certainly in the diocese of Chichester, we have done all we can to ensure that our safeguarding policies reflect best practice, and are fully and evenly implemented. The statement below speaks of an earlier report of this case, in the 1990s.
“There will no doubt be some who allege a cover-up by the Church. We acknowledge that the response then would not be adequate by today’s standards, although that falls far short of a cover-up. In the present context, the diocese of Chichester has worked with police and other agencies to ensure that we have sought the fullest understanding possible of what happened.
“Please hold in your prayers all victims of abuse, especially those who have never been able to seek or receive help and a proper response. Please pray for all who are affected by this news, especially those who are our ecumenical partners, those unable to comprehend its implications, and those whose faith is damaged by it. Please pray for the diocese of Chichester, for each other, lay and ordained, as we seek to remain faithful to our apostolic mission in spite of much that could discourage and deter us.”
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