The cycle bridge linking Lisbon municipality with Loures that is causing so much angst. Image: Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa
The cycle bridge linking Lisbon municipality with Loures that is causing so much angst. Image: Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa

Thousands sign petition against honouring Lisbon’s outgoing Cardinal Patriarch

City councils seek to ‘honour’ D. Manuel Clemente with cycle bridge in his name*

A petition contesting the naming of a bridge in honour of Lisbon’s outgoing Cardinal Patriarch has collected thousands of signatures since it was uploaded on Saturday. 

As of this morning, over 15,400 people agreed with the premise that to ‘honour’ a member of the Church whose name “is one of the names under suspicion of having covered up at least one crime of child sexual abuse by a priest is highly debatable.

Thus the purpose of the petition is to change the decision by Lisbon and Loures city councils which have announced the naming of the cycle bridge, on the basis that D. Manuel Clemente is a man “who gave so much to Lisbon during his life”.

Manuel Clemente himself has already thanked the municipalities for their “generosity”, adding a mention for ‘all those who worked at World Youth Day”. But the reality is that the decision now must be debated in parliament, as it has long since outstripped the requirement, in terms of signatories, for this kind of attention.

Tiago Rolino, one of the promoters of the initiative, has said he is not surprised by the runaway success in terms of signatories. In his view, the naming of the bridge is “an offence to the good name of the victims of child sexual abuse by the Catholic Church, which the independent commission recently estimated to number at least 4,800” since the 1950s.

“We are not surprised by the reach, because we know that it is a fair fight, which is not personal, it is not against anyone, but it is to protect the good name of the victims. It is a fair fight for everyone,” he told Lusa.

Inconveniently perhaps, the petition coincided with news that 93% of contracts for goods and services for World Youth Day went ahead without recourse to public tender. This is diametrically opposed to statements by government representatives before the event, who pledged that 90% of contracts WOULD respect rules of public procurement.

SIC Notícias yesterday evening even ran the video clip of this statement, given by minister for the parliamentary affairs Catarina  Mendes.

The bridge petition’s text stresses that “since the bridge is one of the facilities that was paid for using public money, which all Portuguese will pay with remarkable effort, the minimum required will be to honour those who have factually made a difference or were the author of deeds that deserve to be highlighted in our municipality.

“In addition, this cardinal is the protagonist of the shortest leadership of a Patriarch of Lisbon in more than a century”.

As the Resident’s text was being put together, another 200 people signed the petition.

Rádio Observador interviewed Cristina Amaral, founder of the Association of Victims and Survivors of Sexual Abuse in the Church over the weekend, whose comments left no doubt as to her feelings. She said that she believes it is “shameful that, with public money, Lisbon City Council puts the name of this gentleman” on the bridge. “I am incredulous”, she added going on to suggest Manuel Clemente “deserves very little of the air he breathes”.

With this issue creating so much traction, a counter petition has been raised, applauding the mayors of Lisbon and Loures for their decision in naming the bridge after D. Manuel Clemente.

Say the promoters: “This way the name of a great bishop of the Patriarchate of Lisbon, a historic institution of the territory that comprises the two cities linked by this bridge, remains for future memory. Dom Manuel Clemente contributed decisively to the revitalisation of Catholic civil society and also had an enormous influence on Portuguese society during his pontificate”.

This second petition, which goes on to suggest that Parque Tejo be christened Parque Pope Francisco, has not yet amassed the sufficient number of signatories (7,500) to be debated in parliament, but it too is on its way there, with 6,030 signatures by midday today.

*UPDATE: “Cardinal-patriarch refuses bridge to be named after him”, writes Lusa this lunchtime: “The cardinal-patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente, has asked that his name not be given to the cycle bridge over the River Trancão, following the controversy generated in recent days”.

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