Archbishop of Canterbury: 'Church clear on child safety'

Rt Rev Wallace Benn
Image caption Letters seen by the BBC last month called Bishop Benn's immediate suspension

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said a Sussex diocese is clear about the need to "change attitude and practices" to guarantee the safety of children.

Lambeth Palace issued a statement after the announcement that the Bishop of Lewes, the Right Reverend Wallace Benn, will retire at the end of October.

Calls had been made for Bishop Benn's suspension after a child protection controversy in Chichester diocese.

Bishop Benn said he had hoped to resolve issues before he retired.

He said he had faced "difficult days".

'Costly failure'

The archbishop's statement said: "The issues around safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester have been the result of longstanding problems with working arrangements and communications, and a costly failure to reflect best current practice in the policies and procedures established by the diocese.

"Those in senior leadership in the diocese, including Bishop Wallace Benn, whose retirement is announced today, have already acknowledged a shared responsibility and made unreserved apologies to those who have suffered because of past errors."

He added: "They have been clear about mistakes made in the past and the need to change attitudes and practices in the diocese so as to guarantee that churches offer as safe an environment for children as humanly possible."

Image caption The Archbishop of Canterbury said there had been a costly failure to reflect best current practice

In a statement announcing his retirement, Bishop Benn said: "These have been difficult days, not only for me, but also for many people, including survivors, compounded by inaccurate reporting and false allegations.

"We have been deeply moved and encouraged by the hundreds of letters of support and kind wishes that we have received during this time from the clergy and people of East Sussex."

Visitation process

Last year, it was revealed that a complaint had been made against Bishop Benn under clergy discipline measures (CDM).

It was later revealed by sources outside the diocese that it had been alleged he tried to prevent a priest's criminal record bureau check being dealt with properly.

And last month, it emerged that social care chiefs had made calls for Bishop Benn's immediate suspension.

The diocese is currently subject to a visitation process which includes an inquiry into its child protection policies.

Three local priests have been charged this year with child sex offences.

The Bishop of Chichester, the Right Reverend Dr Martin Warner, will appoint a successor.

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