Pope critical of Belgian raids

Pope Benedict has joined mounting
Vatican criticism of raids by Belgian police investigating alleged child sex
abuse, calling them “deplorable”.

In a message to Belgian bishops,
the pope expressed his solidarity “in this moment of sadness”.

Several buildings were searched in
raids targeting a retired archbishop and the graves of two prelates.

Prosecutors said the action
concerned alleged “abuse of minors committed by a certain number of Church
figures”.

Police in Leuven, central Belgium,
on Thursday seized nearly 500 files and a computer from the offices of a Church
commission investigating allegations of sex abuse.

They also searched the Church’s
headquarters and the Brussels archdiocese in Mechelen, north of the Belgian
capital.

‘Unprecedented
treatment’

Pope Benedict’s criticism of the
raids came in a message of support to Brussels Archbishop Andre Joseph Leonard,
the head of the Belgian bishops’ conference.

“I want to express, dear
brother in the Episcopate, as well as to all the Bishops of Belgium, my
closeness and solidarity in this moment of sadness, in which, with certain
surprising and deplorable methods, searches were carried out.”

“I hope that justice will
follow its course while guaranteeing the rights of individuals and institutions,
respecting the rights of victims, (and) acknowledging those who undertake to
collaborate with it,” Pope Benedict said.

On Saturday Vatican officials
compared the raids and investigation into allegations of child sex abuse with
the treatment of the Church under communist rule.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the
Vatican Secretary of State, described the detention of priests “serious
and unbelievable”.

“There are no precedents, not
even under the old communist regimes,” he said.

The Vatican has summoned the
Belgian ambassador to the Holy See to voice its anger at the incident.

The Catholic Church in Belgium has
apologised for its silence on abuse cases in the past.

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