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Abuse survivor on Vatican panel criticises Francis for not joining meetings

Peter Saunders, chief executive of NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)

A British abuse campaigner appointed to serve on a Vatican commission has said he would be outraged if the Pope failed to attend their meetings.

Peter Saunders, who was abused by a priest as a child, had been handpicked by the Pope to serve on a Vatican sex abuse commission in 2014. But he told the Times this week that he had asked the Pope to appear at a three-day meeting of the commission, which starts today, to defend his record.

He told the paper: “It will be outrageous if he doesn’t attend and I will say so.”

The Pope set up the commission with promises to clean up the Church after a decade-long sex abuse scandal that uncovered abuse by priests of minors in several countries. Last year he created a new tribunal that punished bishops for covering up.

Mr Saunders, who founded the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, has also criticised the appointment of the Chilean Bishop Juan Barros to the Diocese of Osorno. Bishop Barros was accused of covering up an abusive priest, and even witnessing abuse.

“People in Chile now see the commission as a laughing stock and I cannot pretend the commission means anything unless [the Pope] sacks Barros,” Mr Saunders said.