Dr Williams orders visitation

29 December 2011

by Ed Thornton

THE Archbishop of Canterbury last week ordered an archiepiscopal Visitation of the diocese of Chi­chester, to examine the implementa­tion of its child protection policies. It is understood to be the first such Visitation since the 1890s.

A spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace said that the inquiry, which will be carried out by the former Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd John Gladwin, and Canon Rupert Bursell QC, had been set up to “give assur­ance” that the recommendations of a report by Baroness Butler-Sloss into the handling of the cases of two priests who were the subject of child-abuse allegations (News, 27 May) “are being put in place”.

Lambeth Palace said in a statement on Thursday of last week that Bishop Gladwin and Canon Bursell would “advise the Arch­bishop on any steps that need to be taken to ensure the highest possible stand­ards of safeguarding the diocese. This will involve examining current child-protection arrange­ments as well as making recom­menda­tions for the future.” They will present a preliminary report to Dr Williams “by the end of February 2012”.

The spokeswoman would not comment on whether the Visitation was prompted by complaints made to Dr Williams by the diocese’s independent safeguarding advisory group about the Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, who is facing charges under the Clergy Discipline Measure (News, 18 November).

The diocese of Chichester said in its statement that the Bishop of Chi­chester, Dr John Hind, had “given his full support to the inquiry”.

“Our diocesan staff have been in constant touch with Lambeth Palace over the last year,” Dr Hind said, “and this is now the outcome of those discussions. We welcome this visitation as an opportunity to resolve a number of issues in the implementation of best safeguard­ing practice in the diocese and more widely, and should also contribute to the response of the Church to the pain victims have experienced as a result of abuse. . .

“I expect full co-operation with the Archbishop’s commissaries. I hope that after my retirement at the end of April 2012, the diocese will have firm foundations on which the new Bishop will be able to build in leading the diocese in the future.”

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