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Last Updated: Monday, 27 October, 2003, 17:53 GMT
Church's 'progress' over abuse
Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols
Archbishop Nichols said the figures make him feel "uncomfortable"
A leading churchman has said that complaints of child abuse made against the Roman Catholic Church are a sign it is making progress on the issue.

The Archbishop of Birmingham was speaking about nearly 150 complaints of abuse made against priests and other workers in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales in 2002.

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols said the figures made him feel "very uncomfortable", but at the same time were proof that the church was dealing with the problem.

The statistics were released as part of the first annual report made by Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Copca).

A total of 148 complaints were received by the 22 Roman Catholic dioceses in England and Wales last year - 132 concerned alleged sexual abuse and 16 physical abuse.

It actually means that people are growing in confidence in the response that they will receive when they do come forward
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols

The archbishop said: "I feel torn because, on the one hand, I am very uncomfortable when it is clear that there are more people coming forward and saying that priests in the past have behaved very wrongly.

"And yet, on the other hand I am pleased, when to be coming forward, and in a way an increasing number of people coming forward, means that we are effecting gradually the changes that we want.

"It actually means that people are growing in confidence in the response that they will receive when they do come forward."

'Honest account'

Archbishop Nichols, who is chairman of the board of Copca, was speaking on Monday at the launch of the body's first annual report in London.

The report outlined "substantial progress" in bringing in child protection policies within the church.

It revealed that nine out of 10 of the 2,663 parishes in England and Wales have appointed child protection representatives and more than 200 training sessions in rooting out child abuse have taken place in dioceses.

Eileen Shearer, the non-Catholic independent director of Copca, said that some of the 148 complaints were from many years before and were being brought forward for the first time.

Ms Shearer added that the report marked the beginning of a new approach to child protection in the Catholic Church.

She said: "I do not see the report as an occasion for self congratulation or for complacency.

"It is intended to be an honest account of the progress that has been made not just by Copca, but throughout the church."

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