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Major support for Church’s council

Reading glasses on pile of paper“HUGE support” for the work of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council is coming from lay people within the Church and from religious and parish priests working on the ground.

TJHC chief executive officer Francis Sullivan said a year on from the council’s establishment, support from bishops and religious leaders around Australia had never been stronger.

“Without the support and strength of religious leaders across Australia including Cardinal (George) Pell, Archbishops (Denis) Hart and (Mark) Coleridge and Sister Annette Cunliffe it would be difficult for the Church to cope with the work required of it by the Royal Commission,” he said.

“It is also through this unified position that the Church is developing the new policies and structure needed to ensure victims are treated with justice and compassion and children are as safe as possible in Church institutions.”

The TJHC was established to co-ordinate the Catholic Church’s engagement with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The commission began hearings into the Catholic Church’s victims’ reparation and pastoral response scheme, Towards Healing, in Sydney on December 9.

At the time, Mr Sullivan said “these are important days of reckoning for the Church”.

“Our shame needs to be transformative for the good of victims and the integrity of Catholics,” he said.

The public hearings focused on the experiences of four Queensland residents who were abused by priests in Brisbane archdiocese and Lismore diocese and by Marist Brothers in two Queensland schools.

The abuse took place in the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

Mr Sullivan, at the conclusion of the first block of the hearings said “these past two weeks have been a significant moment for victims of abuse within the Catholic Church, for the Church leadership, for Catholics around Australia and the community more broadly”.

“Victims, who have been silenced for so long, are bravely telling their stories,” he said. “Their voices and their strength are showing us how things went so very wrong.”

Mr Sullivan said it had been “a huge year for the Catholic Church in Australia”.

“We have seen a dramatic shift in its response to the issues around child sexual abuse in particular the decision to take a whole-of-Church approach to identifying the problems and developing unified responses,” he said.

The Royal Commission’s examination of the Towards Healing process will resume on January 22.

A public hearing, starting on January 28, will inquire into the responses of The Salvation Army (Eastern Territory) to child sexual abuse within its children’s homes in Queensland and New South Wales.

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