The Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn has released a public apology for "any abuse and mistreatment" that may have been experienced by individuals as "a result of their engagement with our church".
The text of the apology, to be read out by Bishop Stuart Robinson at a "Lamentation Sunday" service this weekend, was made public on Tuesday afternoon and is targeted at childhood victims of sexual abuse.
Lamentation Sunday fulfils a pledge made by the bishop during his charge to the Diocesan Synod in Goulburn last September when he led the synod in a confession for past failures by the diocese to respond appropriately to child sex abuse.
While no specific instances of abuse were given on that occasion, a report released by the Anglican Church in 2009 cited 191 cases of child sexual abuse in 17 Anglican dioceses across Australia between 1990 and 2008.
According to the Study of Reported Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church, three-quarters of the complainants were male and usually aged between 10 and 15 at the time of the alleged abuse.
The study, which did not extend to Anglican schools, found most of the accused were either ordained clergy or involved in some form of voluntary or youth work.
Almost half of the 191 alleged cases were linked to just 27 people and, in some cases, the abuse extended over three years.
The study also found there were "long delays" in the reporting of abuse, the average amount of time being 23 years.
"Just over half of the cases were treated as substantiated by the church and a third as inconclusive with erroneous allegations by child complainants being rare," it said.
Speaking at last September's synod, Bishop Robinson warned members the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault "will shake [all] the churches to their foundations".
"This diocese is not immune," he said. "This is an area where, by acts of commission and omission on the part of members of the clergy and laity over many decades, we have, I confess, acted shamefully.
"It is important we acknowledge past failings and the damage this has inflicted on vulnerable children and their families. When the abuse was committed, the innocence and joy of childhood was stolen."
The apology says: "On behalf of my episcopal colleagues and the leadership of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, I wish to convey our deep and genuine sadness in relation to the pain and brokenness that people have experienced as a result of their engagement with our church.
"I take this opportunity to apologise for any abuse or mistreatment that those sharing in this event may have experienced by individuals or groups connected with our church.
"We know that hurt and sorrow can last for decades – indeed, generations – and so we'd value the opportunity to work with people towards wholeness, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration, and trust that this service might begin to address such things.
"Our aim is to create and grow communities of faith that are safe, life-giving, transformative and Christ-honouring.
"In addressing personal grievances and unresolved conflict, we'll be better placed to achieve our aim.
"Thank you for sharing in this gathering with us."
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