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Day of Repent for sexual abuse at Vienna cathedral

Vienna Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn will preside at a "day of repentance" service today (Weds) in the wake of revelations of numerous cases of violence and sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy.

His office said yesterday that the service at 7pm at Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral would constitute "an acknowledgement of guilt in the name of the Church."

The office added that members of some organisations critical of Schönborn, such as "We are the Church," had been invited to attend it.

Schönborn, the titular head of the Austrian Catholic Church and chairman of the Austrian Bishops Conference, will say Mass, and victims of clerical abuse will talk about their experiences.

The special service comes in the wake of hundreds of recent reports of clerical abuse.

There have been 566 reports of various kinds of abuse by clergy at the Catholic Church’s ombudsman’s offices this year, it was announced yesterday.

Vienna archdiocese has had the highest number, 174, followed by Innsbruck diocese with 115. More than half of them can no longer be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations.

Cases of sexual abuse constitute 27 per cent of these, cases of violence 26 per cent. More than half of them require further investigation, according to the media.

Schönborn’s first reaction to the reports was to announce during a TV interview on Sunday that former Styrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Governor Waltraud Klasnic would head a commission dealing with victims of Catholic Church abuse, but the news was met with harsh criticism.

Parish priest Rudolf Schermann, who publishes Catholic magazine Kirche In, said: "I would have preferred an objective atheist." Schermann said no one could expect independent work from Klasnic since she had "strong links" to the Catholic Church.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) juridical issues spokesman Hannes Jarolim branded Klasnic’s nomination "unacceptable. She is not objective in this matter and is not a lawyer," Jarolim said yesterday.

Various hotlines set up by independent platforms to give victims of violence and sexual abuse by Catholic Church clergy a chance to talk about what they experienced have received hundreds of calls over the past few weeks.

A recent Integral Institut poll found 69 per cent of Austrians said the church was lacking in credibility, while another survey revealed that around one million Austrians were seriously considering leaving the Church.

More than 53,000 people left the Catholic Church in Austria in 2009, the highest in the country’s history. Analysts have said that recent developments could result in a new record number this year.

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Related articles: Catholic church

  1. Austrians at odds about Schönborn

    » General News 2012-05-30

    One in five Austrians consider Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn as a reactionary clergyman.

  2. Küng tackles Schüller group

    » General News 2012-05-24

    Another top-tier representative of the Austrian Church has warned the Preachers’ Initiative from consequences.

  3. Rebel priest deplores Church's 'leadership crisis'

    » General News 2012-05-22

    A Catholic preacher who established a group of "disobedient" priests reacted coolly to Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn’s warnings.

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