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Note: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop George Bell were good friends.
A highly-respected 20th century Church of England bishop was a paedophile, it was revealed today.
The shocking revelations about the late Bishop of Chichester George Bell came when the Church of England disclosed it had apologised and paid damages following a civil sex abuse claim against him.
The allegations against Bell date from the late 1940s and early 1950s and concern sexual offences against an individual who was at the time a young child.
Bishop Bell, born in 1883 and who died in 1958, became Bishop of Chichester in 1929. He was revered as a leading light on the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church and at one time was even in the running to be Archbishop of Canterbury. He had been a Queen’s Scholar at Westminster School and was elected after that to a scholarship at Christ Church Oxford where he studied theology.
He was a prolific author and also appeared in works of fiction by others, most notably in the best-selling novel Ultimate Prizes by Susan Howatch and as Francis Wood, Bishop of Cirencester in Anthony Horowitz’s TV series Foyle’s War. He was also a character in Alison McLeod’s novel Unexploded.
The current Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said the news had brought “a bewildering mix of deep and disturbing emotions.”
In its effect on the legacy and reputation of George Bell, it “yields a bitter fruit of great sadness and a sense that we are all diminished by what we are being told,” Dr Warner added. “We remain committed to listening to all allegations of abuse with an open mind. In this case, the scrutiny of the allegation has been thorough, objective, and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties. We face with shame a story of abuse of a child; we also know that the burden of not being heard has made the experience so much worse. We apologise for the failures of the past.
“The revelation of abuse demands bravery on the part of a survivor, and we respect the courage needed to tell the truth. We also recognise that telling the truth provides a legitimate opportunity for others to come forward, sometimes to identify the same source of abuse.”