1st July 2011 – 2nd Meeting in Verona of the deaf and speech impaired survivors of catholic clergy abuse from the Antonio Provola Institute.
by Sue Cox
Once again, I was privileged to be with the wonderful deaf and speech impaired survivors of clergy sexual abuse from the Instituto Provolo in Verona.
It is almost impossible to describe the feelings as we all met up once again. We have very definitely become a family.
Not very long ago, it would have been unthinkable to imagine a group of clergy abuse survivors to be able to walk through Verona together, revealing their ordeals and declaring their revulsion.
In a profoundly catholic area, where for so long the priests wielded power over the communities and most especially over the vulnerable people in their care, the possibility of these very brave and dignified people being able to have their voices heard would have been impossible. But there they were standing together proud and courageous and with right and decency on their side.
With the wonderful Italian sun beating down on us, we all met outside the institute where they suffered so much at the hands of pedophile priests and indeed nuns. Immediately I marvelled at their ability to stand tall in front of the imposing building that housed such horrors, without once resorting to “victim” mode. They are real survivors! Strong because they know that they have each other. There were others there too, supporters, families, politicians and press.
Their creativity always evident, they came with posters and hats and banners made to show the World their wounds, and to ask for justice.
The police, as always, gathered. It seems that as survivors of Catholic clergy, we pose something of a threat!
A huge sheet was produced and was to be put on the door of the Institute shouting ” Throw out the pedophile priests from the Provola Institute ” – not a good idea the police thought – they told us to take it down.
They hadn’t reckoned on the determination of the group, with Giorgio at their helm, reminding the police of the “bambini” they stood on each others shoulders and attached the banner for all to see. The building, imposing and threatening, was transformed by this adornment, and took on an air of shame. Quite rightly.
We renewed our connections made in Rome, with lots of hugging an smiling, and I was shown the building through their eyes.
My beautiful friend Alda, who was “imprisoned ” in this dreadful place when she was a very small girl, showed me the window where she lived, and the bars on the windows where they all felt like prisoners. She didn’t shed a tear, she left that to me! But her sadness as she showed me the place where she suffered was so obviously a heavy burden. I thought my heart would break. A nun who was unaware of the protest, came out to look at the banners on the van outside the building, and then scuttled back in when she saw the nature of the protest.
There was a rope produced, that we were all to hold on to, walking in single file, in the way that these wonderful people had been made to walk through Verona when they were tiny children. It was very powerful and moving as we walked silently through Verona to the square in front of the magnificent amphitheatre, scene of the operas.
People stopped and read the banners, some looked bewildered, some looked away, but after a while people started to wave, and then blow kisses, and then to clap and shout BRAVO!!
We arrived at the amphitheatre, and in a circle listened to Maurizio Turco a politician talk about justice for Italian survivors, who often are the last in line, and then Marco Lodi Rizzini, the spokesperson for the group, who said how in Verona there were people who knew what crimes were being committed against the children there, and did nothing. We all agreed that anyone who knows about these crimes and stays silent is equally to blame.
And then in true “survivor” fashion we all went out to eat together, a wonderful end to an inspiring day. I always feel stronger and more enriched after our encounters. I was left as always with a roller coaster of emotions, pride, sadness, anger, love and hope. I wondered what the Vatican saw when they looked at this amazing group of people? I know there are no words vile enough for me to describe how I feel at their treatment of them. We will be a family all together again in Rome in October, I suggest the Vatican takes heed or takes cover!
As I said my goodbyes, I came away knowing that this brave group of people have the ability to change the World, they already have changed mine!
With Love and gratitude