Buxton landmark Corbar Cross was cut down in a bid to get the Pope to apologise for child abuse committed at a former home in Yorkshire run by an order of Christian Brothers, the Advertiser can reveal.
The damage to the cross was discovered last Thursday morning — just as the Pope landed in Britain for his historic visit.
A note, which was passed on to police who confirmed it was identical to one found at the scene of the crime, arrived in the post at the Buxton Advertiser office that morning.
It began: “Hello, Pope. Welcome to the UK. On this visit will you make a sincere and public apology to the inmates of St Williams School, Market Weighton, Yorks, who in the care of the church were physically and sexually abused over many decades?”
One of the teaching brotherhood at the home, which is now closed, was jailed twice for his part in abuse in the 1960, 70s and 80s.
And only this week Humberside Police announced that they are to re-investigate dozens of fresh claims of abuse at the home, which was run by the De La Salle Order of Christian Brothers.
The writer of the note said it had been sent to the paper “just in case the Catholic Church tries to hide the story, in the same way it has hidden the abuse of so many for so long.”
Its message to the Pope continued: “We hear reports that you intend to make private apologies to some of the unfortunates — that is just not good enough. It boils down to secrecy, the same kind of secrecy that shrouded the sufferings of all those boys over the years.
“If you want the world to know the church is genuinely sorry, shout it from the rooftops. ‘WE ARE SORRY - THE PAIN WE CAUSED AND ALLOWED TO BE CAUSED WAS WRONG — PLEASE FORGIVE US’ That’s all it takes.
“Can you, on behalf of the church, do it? Or will you, like an ostrich, bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away, as so many bishops and cardinals have done in the past.”
A judge has ruled that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesborough, which owned the home, is responsible for compensation claims following the abuse, although the Church is appealing against the decision.
The large wooden cross on Corbar Hill was cut off at its base.
Anyone with information about the damage should call Derbyshire police on 0345 123 3333 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
The present day Corbar Cross was erected by an ecumenical group of local churches in the late 1980s after the original structure, which was given to the Roman Catholic church by the Duke of Devonshire in the 1950s, had been damaged by the weather.
Rector of Buxton, The Rev John Hudghton, said: “One has every sympathy with anybody who has been abused.”
And commenting on the damage to Corbar Cross, he added: “It is an ecclesiastical symbol, not just Roman Catholic. I am saddened by the whole affair, as I am sure Christians from all denominations will be.”
In response to the public outcry, the Rev Carl Edwards, of St Peter’s Church in Fairfield, has set-up a Facebook group, which by yesterday (Wednesday) had attracted nearly 500 followers, many of whom have posted comments.
The group can be viewed at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=154951077867669.
The Rev Chris Lowndes, Chairman of the ecumenical group Churches Together in Buxton, is organising a meeting to decide if and how the cross could be replaced.
“The sense coming across now is that they want the cross back up there,” he said.
“We have all got a great deal of sympathy for the victims of abuse, but there are more constructive ways of making the point.”