Sophie Scagell, the Survivor Support Caseworker from our Diocesan Safeguarding Team attended the opening of the LOUDfence being held in the Archdiocese of Birmingham at St Chad’s Cathedral this week. She has written a summary about this:
“I attended the opening of the LOUDfence at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham on Sunday 7th May. A Mass was celebrated in the morning by Archbishop Bernard Longley to mark the opening. At the start of the Mass he offered a special welcome to everyone who had come for the launch of the LOUDfence.
During his homily Archbishop Longley said, “I wish to thank the victim-survivors of abuse within the Catholic Church, who may have joined us today in person or online, for their witness of great courage and strength – especially when it may be painful and costly to cross the threshold of a church property, with all the unwelcome memories that this can bring.” Archbishop Longley then asked the congregation to note the empty chair that had been placed next to the choir stalls, which had been covered in ribbons. He said that this was a reminder of all those who might not feel able to enter the Cathedral or indeed any church.
At the bidding prayers intercessions were offered for all victims of abuse, particularly those who had been hurt by abuse within the church, and those who had been abused by priests or religious.
At the end of the Mass, Antonia Sobocki, Project Manager of LOUDfence, addressed the congregation and spoke about the origins of the LOUDfence. Antonia talked about the church’s failure at times to see the victims and highlighted that it was easy for us all not to see the victims. Antonia said that the LOUDfence was an opportunity to show compassion by tying ribbons and messages on a fence for survivors to see and take comfort from. She also mentioned that silence and indifference are harmful to survivors, and that there was a great need for reconciliation and healing in the church. Antonia encouraged those present to tie a ribbon to the fence to show their support and compassion for everyone who has been harmed.
Following the Mass, it was good to see the familiar faces of people who had attended our LOUDfence in Plymouth, including Antonia Sobocki, as well as meeting with some new people. Visitors included a group from France (in March a LOUDfence was hosted at a meeting of the Bishops’ Conference in Lourdes and at the National Conference of the Ordained Religious of France) and safeguarding colleagues from other Catholic dioceses.
A Safeguarding in Action event is also being run by the Safeguarding Team in the Archdiocese as part of the LOUDfence. This included information about safeguarding in the Archdiocese and details of support for survivors. There was also a display of artwork by Sarah Troughton, which is a series of ten angels to represent the phases of transformation experienced following church related abuse, as a message of hope.
The LOUDfence at St Chad’s will continue until Saturday 13th May when it will conclude with a Mass. If you would like to send a message of support to be added to the LOUDfence please visit: https://www.birminghamdiocese.org.uk/forms/loudfence-at-st-chads-cathedral