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Oscar-winner calls on Pope to ‘protect children and restore the faith’

Tom McCarthy, Rachel McAdams and other members of Spotlight's cast and production team celebrate after accepting the award for best picture at the Oscars (AP)

One of the producers of Spotlight, which won the Oscar for best picture at Sunday night’s ceremony, used his acceptance speech to call on Pope Francis and the Vatican to protect children from abuse and “restore the faith”.

The film, which tells the story of The Boston Globe’s investigation into the cover-up of clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, also won the award for best original screenplay at the ceremony at the Dolby Theatre, in Hollywood.

In his acceptance speech, producer Michael Sugar said that Spotlight “gave a voice to survivors (of abuse)”.

“This Oscar amplifies that voice,” he said. “We hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican. Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”

After picking up the Oscar for best original screenplay, Spotlight’s director Tom McCarthy, who co-wrote the script with Josh Singer, said the film had been made for “the journalists who have and continue to hold the powerful accountable”, as well as survivors of abuse “whose courage and will to overcome is really an inspiration”.

“We have to make sure this never happens again,” he added.

Marie Collins, an abuse survivor who is a member of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, tweeted that she “delighted” to see Spotlight win the best picture award.

In an interview with the Catholic Herald in January, McCarthy said he did want Spotlight to “sensationalise” the subject of clerical abuse or demonise the Catholic Church.

“It’s a sensitive issue and part of our approach was to not sensationalise or be gratuitous,” he said.

“It’s not just a question of a newspaper going after the Church but also a larger question of societal complicity and deference, in this case towards the Church, but also in general.

“What did people know and was it just the power of the Church stopping them from speaking out, or was there more to it? I hope this is a universal movie that transcends this particular case and speaks of other institutions where bad things are happening.”

Speaking earlier this month, the Vatican’s former chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases said every bishop and cardinal must watch Spotlight, so they realise reporting abuse, not silence, will save the Church.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta said the film underlines the key problem of “omerta” or a code of silence.

“The movie shows how the instinct – that unfortunately was present in the Church – to protect a reputation was completely wrong,” he said after a showing of the film in Malta’s capital Valletta.