Messages of support from across the Archdiocese and far beyond are now adorning the railings outside St Chad’s Cathedral as part of LOUDfence.

The survivor-led initiative, which was launched at St Chad’s on Sunday 7 May, encourages people to tie brightly coloured ribbons and messages in public spaces. The aim is to give survivors a voice, create and raise awareness in the community and work to end abuse.

Tuesday 9 May was the National Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse and was the Mass intention at the cathedral.

A number of victim-survivors attended the Mass, along with staff from the Diocesan Safeguarding Team; Antonia Sobocki, the UK Project Manager for LOUDfence UK; friends at St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham and members of the Survivor Engagement Panel, which works closely with the Safeguarding Team.

The congregation also heard from a survivor:

Words written quickly before Mass, and spoken by a woman, originally from Birmingham, who struggles decades later to fully connect with the Church after experiencing, as a child, spiritually damaging teaching from clergy and religious, and sexual misconduct from a priest in the context of confession as a teenager. Distressed and angry at how the Church continues in so many ways to turn away from truths about abusive relationships of power within it. Longing for more honesty, more justice, more equity and more transparency to build a Church in which all those who have been hurt can feel safer. Acutely conscious of serious forms of abuse happening across the Global Church family today. Searching for more honest, open dialogue in order to learn together. The sorrow and humility expressed by Archbishop Bernard Longley to his congregation on 7th May and ability to make some space for the voice of LOUDfence and a survivor was much appreciated; and that of Mgr Tim Menenzes, who listened. Also appreciated was the acknowledgement that we need very actively to learn and do more.

Said at St Chad's Birmingham - the Day of Prayer for Victim/Survivors of Abuse - acknowledging especially those abused within the Church, 9th May 2023.

Some words from ..survivors of abuse within the Church - thinking particularly of those among us here today. Some who have come a long way to be able to join us here today - some who really .. struggle .. to come within the Church.

Fellow Catholics

An Empty Chair
A gift from Catholics
True to Jesus, following Him.
Struggling to enter the Church
Struggling to be ..
Communion, Participation or Mission
With a Church... that continues deny Justice
To Those it hurts so badly.
A Church when it fails to
To those it continues to hurt.
A Church when it is blind
How hampers its own Mission
A Church that turns away from Christ
When it fails to learn
By listening.
Lord, bind us together
Help us have the courageous conversations,
The radical conversations we need to have.
Lord in your Mercy
Hear Our Prayer.

Some parishioners from Corpus Christi in Headington, Oxford, also attended, bringing with them a number of messages to tie to the LOUDfence.

Many messages from France were tied to the railings on Sunday, delivered by Katherine Shirk Lucas, a Roman Catholic Theologian and Lecturer at the Catholic University of Paris who helped to organise the recent LOUDfence in France.

Mary Varley, from the Stolen Lives team of Root & Branch – an international forum which seeks to see a safe, just and inclusive church – said: “We have been working with Antonia, and the organisation Survivors Voices, and making a connection.

“The scale of the change needed in the Church is massive – cultural, structural and legal.

“We need ordinary Catholics to speak up and speak out.”

Claire Reay, Head of Safeguarding at the Archdiocese, said: “Following the launch of a #LOUDfence on Sunday at St Chad’s Cathedral, it is heartening to see so many ribbons and messages being added to the display. The compassion and support for survivors is evident.

“The Archdiocese is committed to supporting all victim-survivors and we continue to reach out to those in need of support. In hosting this initiative, we want to show the Archdiocese supports and stands in solidarity with all those who have been abused.

“Members of the Safeguarding Team are on hand all this week to talk to visitors about the work we do. For those who do not wish to go inside the cathedral the Grimshaw Room will be open, offering an alternative place for quiet reflection.”

The LOUDfence runs at St Chad’s Cathedral until Saturday 13 May. Throughout this week visitors are encouraged to take part by tying ribbons and messages on the outside railings between the entrance to Cathedral House and the book shop, as well as just inside the cathedral in the Bell Chamber.

As part of the event the Diocesan Safeguarding Team are running a ‘Safeguarding in Action’ event in the Grimshaw Room. We appreciate not everyone will want to go inside the cathedral, and so the Grimshaw Room is an alternative place for quiet reflection and a cuppa.

If you cannot attend in person please contribute online

LOUDfence Programme

Photo Galleries

LOUDfence continues

LOUDfence continues - National Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse

LOUDfence launched

Launch of LOUDfence and Holy Mass