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Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 13:31 GMT
Church 'ensures' children's safety
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols
Father Nichols pledged to investigate abuse allegations
The Catholic Church has appointed a non-Catholic to lead its national organisation aimed at stamping out sex abuse within the Church.

Eileen Shearer will head the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA), based in Birmingham.

Ms Shearer has a 25-year career in children's services, including 16 years with the NSPCC as regional director for the South West.

COPCA was set up after the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, promised to investigate all allegations of child abuse where no action has been taken in the past.

By having a non-Catholic, no one can accuse the Church of policing itself

Peter Jennings, press officer for the Archbishop of Birmingham

Father Nichols, COPCA's chairman, said: "This appointment is a demonstration of our commitment to take a serious and conscientious approach to the children in our care.

"Eileen Shearer is a leading professional in her field and brings with her a valuable experience and the highest credentials.

"The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales unanimously endorsed the comprehensive report into this area carried out by Lord Nolan's committee.

"Nobody should be in any doubt that we intend to continue the work we have already done in conjunction with the existing high quality child protection professionals in the Catholic Church."

'Serious matter'

Ms Shearer's role will focus on raising awareness of sex abuse throughout the Church; selection procedures and training standards for staff and volunteers; and responding to allegations of abuse.

Ms Shearer said: "My job is to work with the existing professionals within the Catholic Church to take action and ensure that children are safe with the Church and to give families that confidence."

Peter Jennings, the Archbishop's press officer, added: "It was always the intention to appoint the very best person for this job, therefore the field was not restricted to Catholics.

"They have chosen a non-Catholic and it shows how serious the Catholic Church is about this matter.

"By having a non-Catholic, no one can accuse the Church of policing itself."

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