Pope Benedict XVI, yesterday, apologised to victims of child sexual abuse by clergy in Ireland and announced a formal Vatican investigation of Irish Roman Catholic dioceses and seminaries hit by the abuse scandal.
In recent weeks, the Vatican has been trying to contain damage as a string of scandals over sexual abuse of children by priests has hit Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
“You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry … I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel,” he said in an unprecedented letter covering sexual abuse of minors by clergy in Ireland.
The letter, addressed to the people, bishops, priests and victims of abuse in the overwhelmingly Catholic country, did not make any specific reference to the scandals rocking Churches in other countries, particularly the pope’s native Germany.
“I can only share in the dismay and sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way the Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them,” he said.
But the pope did not address widespread calls in Ireland for a radical restructuring of the church nor did he say that bishops implicated in the scandal should resign.
The pope announced what is known as an “apostolic visitation” of “certain” dioceses, seminaries and religious orders in Ireland.
An apostolic visitation is an inquiry in which inspectors meet bishops, seminary or convent directors and local church officials to review the way matters were handled in the past, to suggest changes and decide possible disciplinary action.
The pope said details of the investigation would be announced “in due course”.
Benedict singled out Irish bishops for criticism of their handling of abuse cases in the past.
“It must be admitted that grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness,” he said.
He added: “Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and goodwill of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives,” he said.
The letter, the first papal document devoted exclusively to paedophilia, follows a damning Irish government report on widespread child abuse by priests in the Dublin archdiocese.
The Murphy Report, published in November, said the church in Ireland had “obsessively” concealed child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004, and operated a policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
The latest scandal in Germany is especially delicate for German-born Benedict, Munich’s bishop from 1977 to 1981.
With public opinion in Germany boiling as more cases of abuse emerge, the vice president of the Bundestag lower house, Wolfgang Thierse, called for him to apologise on behalf of those responsible.
Last week, the head of Germany’s Catholic Church apologised to victims of child abuse by priests when he came to Rome for a routine visit that was transformed into a crisis management meeting.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops’ Conference, briefed Benedict about the situation in Germany, where more than 100 reports have emerged of abuse at Catholic institutions, including one linked to the prestigious Regensburg choir run by the pope’s brother from 1964 to 1994.
Meanwhile, Irish victims of clerical child sexual abuse are deeply disappointed by Pope Benedict’s letter of apology, a group representing survivors of abuse said on Saturday.
“We feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims,” Maeve Lewis, executive director of victims group One in Four, told Reuters.
She said the pope’s letter focused too narrowly on lower-ranked Irish priests without recognising the responsibility of the Vatican.
Buhari Seeks Return To Family Values In Rebuilding Nigeria …Wike, Tambuwal, Other Govs Attend Ikpeazu’s Son’s Wedding
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the reason why there were so many problems in the Nigerian society was because of a diminishing emphasis placed on the importance of family values.
Buhari said this, yesterday, at the wedding of Mr. Jachimike Ikpeazu, son of Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu at the International Conference Centre in Umuahia, Abia State.
At the event, the groom wedded his heartbeat, Miss Thelma Chidinma.
The wedding was also attended by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tanbuwal, and several other dignitaries.
Others present at the wedding service that was conducted by the Seventh Day Adventist Church were Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel; Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri; Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed; Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. David Umahi; and Enugu State Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Also at the event were the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; and National Secretary-elect of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Sam Anyanwu.
Buhari, who was represented at the occasion by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uche Ogah, decried the situation where parents and guardians who should have paid greater attention in inculcating good character in their wards, have abdicated that responsibility.
He sued for a collective effort across tribes and regions towards restoring family values and giving it its rightful place.
“Marriage is family value, character. The reasons why there are issues in the society, today, is because families are broken. When values are enshrined in families, the entire society will be good.”
Buhari charged the couple to build their family on the word of God, have a regular family altar of prayers, and give good attention to building enduring character.
Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, who was represented by wife of the Ebonyi State Governor, Mrs. Rachael Umahi, told the couple to know that marriage is where love is celebrated.
She urged them to continue in the training given to them by their parents, and learn to love themselves more so that their home can be a blessing and impact positively on others around them.
In his sermon, Pastor B. E. O. Udoh, admonished the couple not to allow their love for each other to diminish.
He further urged them to be tolerant, support each other to become their best, build and cultivate goodly character.
In his remarks, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu said it was delightful to watch his son take a wife to himself, and prayed God to make their union fruitful.
Ikpeazu expressed gratitude to Buhari and his wife, his brother governors, political associates and friends who attended the event, for honouring him with their presence.
Insurgents Planning To Attack Military Bases, DSS Alerts
The Department of State Services (DSS) has issued an alert over planned attacks by insurgents on Ogun border communities and other border communities in Nigeria.
In a letter signed by the State Director of Security, Ogun State Command, M.B. Abdullahi, DSS warned that it has intelligence that the insurgents were plotting to attack military bases in border towns.
The DSS also advised customs and other security agencies in the country to put counter-measures in place to frustrate the plot by the insurgents.
The letter titled, ‘Plans by insurgents to launch attacks on military bases in various border communities’ read, “Available intelligence indicates plans by insurgents and criminal elements to carry out simultaneous attacks on military posts and bases in various border communities across the nation anytime from now.
“In view of the foregoing and the likelihood such attacks not limited to the military personnel only, all law enforcement and security agencies with operational bases at border communities are advised to take note of the above threat and emplace countermeasures with emphasis on personal security of operatives to frustrate the planned attack.”
PAP Partners NNPC To Sustain Peace In N’Delta
Towards attaining sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have agreed to work together to tackle pipeline insecurity, unemployment and other challenges in the region.
The agreement was reached when PAP’s Interim Administrator, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd) led a delegation to visit the Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mr Mele Kyari, in Abuja, over the weekend.
In a statement signed by the Special Adviser on Media to the Acting Administrator, Mr Neotaobase Egbe, PAP said the meeting was strategic and in line with the objective of programme to partner with all relevant stakeholders for the full implementation of the amnesty programme.
He said PAP was courting willing partners to have robust synergy to drive the Niger Delta Recovery Plan (NDRP) to fruition.
The statement noted that though PAP was executing its own role in reintegrating 30,000 ex-agitators captured by the Presidency, there was a need to strengthen partnership between sister agencies of government for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta.
He said the NNPC like other institutions of government had roles to play in oil assets redistribution, infrastructural development and environmental remediation.
Dikio said that there was a need to control disruptions in oil production, saying destructive energies could be channelled into productive ventures through re-orientation and sustained advocacy.
He also said that PAP had made efforts to cut down irrelevant trainings and had become intentional about successfully empowering its delegates.
He said trainings over the years had become contractor-driven and were not meeting the beneficiaries’ needs.
Dikio maintained that the PAP was targeting functional businesses that had the capacity to train, employ and mentor delegates into becoming successful business owners.
He said: “For instance, if we have someone that has a commercial poultry farm and we partner with them to train our delegates, they will be employed after their training. In the course of two years and five months they will be taken through the ropes of poultry farming before they are sent out to start their own poultry.
“It is a win-win for everybody. We did the research and we discovered that the cassava plant in Bayelsa needs about 20,000 metric tons of cassava daily, so there is ample opportunity for our delegates to go into that kind of business.
“Again, palm oil when sold in international markets is above $1,000 a ton, and here, we are in the region only focusing on oil and gas”.
Dikio further said there were arrays of businesses the PAP was looking to inject delegates into, adding that exceptional graduates under the PAP scholarship scheme had more opportunities for employment.
In his remarks, the NNPC GMD, Mele Kyari, commended Dikio for the efforts to ensure peace in the Niger Delta, and emphasised the need to sustain the peace through accommodation and inclusiveness of Niger Delta youths.
He bemoaned the inability of the oil industry to fulfil its obligations to the region over the years, saying that it was one of the reasons the amnesty programme had prolonged.
He said: “As we speak today, we have seen a number of increasing incidents of unrest; cases that remind us of the past we don’t want to recollect again.
“Therefore, everything you have said points to the fact that inclusion, support and empowerment for young people particularly in the Niger Delta will bring peace and development to the Niger Delta. No amount of resources available to you will give you peace except there is alignment with the respective players in the space”.
Kyari said the award of licences to investors to begin production on about 57 marginal oil fields within Niger Delta in 2022 was designed to support businesses that originated from the region because most of the beneficiaries from the marginal field programme were indigenes of the Niger Delta.
He said working together would bring lasting peace to the region, explaining that the number of experienced technical people produced from the programme, would easily fill employment opportunities.
He said: “Once you create opportunities and investments return, more employment opportunities will come. I think it is a good thing that we work together, both the amnesty programme and all other actors in this space to bring the lasting peace to the Niger Delta and across our country, where people can benefit because ultimately if we cannot give, there will be nothing to show in another five to ten years, that is the reality that we are in.”
By: Akujobi Amadi
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