Solicitor delivers written request to Pope

AN IRISH solicitor has hand-delivered a letter to the Papal Villa, urging the Pope to open up all files on clerical sexual abuse, particularly those in his home diocese of Ferns.

Simon Kennedy has just returned from Rome. He had posted five letters to Pope John Paul II but was yet to receive a reply. He hoped it would be sixth time lucky for he and the victims of clerical sexual abuse he had represented.

In his letter, sent on behalf of client Damian McAleenan, the county Wexford solicitor referred to the Pope’s apology in the wake of the BBC documentary, Suing the Pope.

During that apology, the Pope said the matter had cast dark shadows of suspicion over the clergy.

In his letter, Mr Kennedy appealed to the Pope to answer some of the unanswered questions.

“In response to your apology, we are instructed to invite you to openly make available to us, all information available to you or your Church, of which you are head. Arising from your response, we will take our client’s further detailed instructions,” the letter read.

The father of six said he handed the letter to the Swiss guards outside the Pope’s residence at the weekend.

“I think what will happen is that the inquiry will start and I think that from my own experience of cases like this, it will take on a life of its own,” he said.

“What we are witnessing now is just the tip of the iceberg. Those who were abused 20 years ago are only coming out now.”

Mr McAleenan, from Belfast, was abused by Fr Sean Fortune.

He said all he wanted was the truth about the extent of the problem. He said he was not going away.

He has not received compensation from the Church. He reported the abuse in 1995, years after his life was destroyed by the paedophile priest.

He now lives in Wexford. He spoke on South East Radio yesterday, and callers to the station were supportive of he and his New Ross-based solicitor.

“The truth is there. That’s all I want. I want to know how far this abuse did go. The Church will probably pay out money, under the condition that people keep quiet about it. I don’t want to keep quiet. I want to know how far this goes back,” Mr McAleenan said.

He met Bishop Eamonn Walsh, a temporary replacement for Bishop Brendan Comiskey, who resigned as Bishop of Ferns in April over his handling of Fr Fortune.

“None of the rest of the Church has even replied to my letters.

“I’ve not also received the letter Bishop Comiskey was supposed to send. I was very disappointed when he resigned. I never asked him to resign. All I wanted was the truth.”

Mr McAleenan said he could not get the truth from the Church.

“I’ve asked them a few questions and they can’t even answer me. The Church has told everyone to tell the truth. I’ve asked them to respond, they haven’t. Five letters later, they still haven’t responded.”

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