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Courage conquers shame: Portuguese Church sex abuse survivors speak out

Courage conquers shame: Portuguese Church sex abuse survivors speak out
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Valérie Gauriat
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A recent report estimates nearly 5,000 children have been abused by members of the Portuguese Catholic clergy. Survivors are now speaking out about their suffering.

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The Portuguese Church hierarchy gathered in Fatima on 20th April to ask for forgiveness for the sexual crimes committed against minors by Catholic clergy. A report published in February estimates that nearly 5,000 children have been abused since 1950. Euronews reporter Valérie Gauriat went to Portugal to meet those concerned.

"We acknowledge and present to the survivors of sexual abuse in our Church a deep, sincere and humble request for forgiveness," said José Ornelas Carvalho, head of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference. A mass of forgiveness was organised at the major Catholic pilgrimage destination after the publication of the report.

Breaking the silence to prevent further abuse

Antonio, 70 years old, was one of those who testified before the commission. He was sexually abused by priests in two religious institutions between the ages of 10 and 12. 

Recounting his ordeal, he recalls that one of his abusers once told him to confess before the mass, just after abusing him: "I was supposed to be the sinner. There's a great deal of hypocrisy in the Catholic Church. I have to speak about it everywhere, without shame, with courage, because it's up to us to have the courage and for them to feel the shame."

Since the publication of the report, several clergy members, who have been accused of sexual abuse on minors, have been placed under investigation and temporarily removed from their office. However, many alleged abusers remain in place. Filipa, 43 years old, testified before the commission. She was raped by a priest at the age of 17. After keeping it a secret for years, she decided to speak out three years ago to prevent further abuse. 

"The Vatican said the case was closed because it was already prescribed, and that I was the only known victim of this priest. I don't count. That's why the priest is still active. I fell into depression, I even tried to commit suicide," she says.

Filipa founded an association, Coração Silenciado, to help those who did not make it to break their silence.

Watch Valérie Gauriat's full report in the video player above

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