A British man who says he was abused by a Catholic missionary almost 50 years ago is being prosecuted in the Italian courts after he travelled to Verona to forgive his abuser.
Mark Murray (60) was one of 11 men who settled out of court with the Comboni missionary order for abuse suffered during the 1960s and 1970s at Mirfield in Yorkshire. They received sums of between £7,000 and £30,000, paid by the order. He is now married with two children but has suffered years of psychological problems because of what was done to him.
However, Murray sought out his abuser, Fr Romano Nardo, at the Comboni order's Verona headquarters last April with a view to confronting and forgiving him. In an encounter filmed with the help of Italian newspaper La Repubblica, he says: "You have had a massive negative impact on my life."
Nardo sinks to his knees and replies: "If it is my fault that you bear a heavy cross, I believe I should ask the Lord for forgiveness for having erred. I'm sorry. I'm very sorry. If what happened in your life was caused by me, and if what you are saying is true, I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness."
The film shows shows Murray entering the Verona Mother House, asking for Nardo, then waiting quietly in the order's chapel.
However, according to the Observer, last week he received a summons to court in Verona on counts of "trespassing, stalking and interference in private life".
He told the paper: "The Combonis know these 'crimes' are not true. They are trying to intimidate me," he said. "It's all about power and control. They are trying to send out a message, 'Don't dare take us on'."
He said: "When I was sitting in that church, I was in control. I was no longer a child. For the first time in my life, I had total control and it was so powerful that I was able to forgive him."
Murray added: "What the Combonis are doing now is re-victimising me and compounding the abuse I experienced as a child. It's the opposite of what Pope Francis has said about treating abuse victims with understanding and compassion. Why are they doing this to me and my family?"
La Repubblica journalist Marco Ansaldo has now also been contacted by police and is expecting to be charged. He told the Observer: "I checked my sources. We had three journalists on the case. What can the Combonis say? I think their objective is to pull down Mark Murray and because he was listened to by La Repubblica, they would like to bring us down too. It will be a battle – and we will see what the outcome is."