Pope Francis supports Cumbrian woman's work to support those who have suffered abuse

Pope Francis has announced his support to a movement which supports and gives a voice to those affected by sexual abuse.

Pope Francis called the Loud Fence project, a symbol of hope.

The Loud Fence movement is led in the UK by Antonia Sobocki from Cumbria. She has returned from Rome after receiving praise for the work she's doing from the head of the Catholic Church.

The Cumbrian campaigner has always found solace in the church since she was a victim of rape as a child.

She felt a response was needed in 2020 when the bishop of Carlisle James Newcomb wrote a character reference for a former canon who admitted to abusing two schoolgirls. The Bishop later withdrew the reference and apologised for what he called an error of judgement.

Antonia Sobocki, said: “It caused a lot of upset and this came out in the same week as the final report in the Church of England into the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.

"That hit the community here who are very warm, caring people, very hard. And I think they they needed a voice they needed a way of being able to communicate how they felt about it. They really just wanted to be able to say, not in my name, really. That's not us. This is not the Church of England.

Antonia and her community started hosted what's called a Loud Fence. It's an event in which people can voice their support for survivors of abuse by attaching a ribbon, often with a message to church leaders from survivors.

Pope Francis called the Loud Fence project, a symbol of hope. Credit: PA

Antonia said: “My children would nickname it medieval Facebook. But the idea that you could tie a physical symbol to something and someone else you don't know would be able to come along and see that symbol and that would be a source of comfort and send a message to them.

"That was my rationale behind it. Pope Francis was very kind, very supportive, and he thanked me for the project here, and he said it's a symbol of hope. For the whole church and take it everywhere."

There is already a loudfence installation inside Carlisle Cathedral and on Monday, an exterior loudfence will be placed outside for people to hang their ribbons and show solidarity with victims.

Rev Canon Dr Benjamin Carter, said: “Oh, it's absolutely crucial to everything we do here that we look to safeguard all the people in our care in whatever way we can, but also to, I hope, in a deep and sincere way, relate to and engage with those who've been affected by abuse.

"In whatever way, whether that's in a church setting or in the world around them and show something of God's love and compassion for them. Something of our deep sorrow for the times that the church has failed people in our care and to find ways that we can stand with, in solidarity with, and celebrate the courage of those who've been affected by peace in whatever way."

Antonia added: "My experience of the church is golden. It's it's beautiful, and I've always clung to it.

"So when I found out about what happened in church, that really hit me hard, you know, that felt like a terrible, terrible betrayal, caused a lot of grief for me. And I basically got to the point where I thought, if the church can can do this to me, if it can love include and care for me, then I absolutely know it can do that for other people."

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