Belgium's cardinal vows new start after sex abuse scandal
The head of Belgium's Catholic Church said on Monday it would offer "maximum availability" to victims of sexual abuse by priests or church workers, in a first move seeking to restore public trust.
After a weekend of introspection in the pulpit and shock across the country following the revelations of hundreds of abuse cases with 13 linked to suicides uncovered by church-backed investigators, Andre-Joseph Leonard said the clergy's first duty was to listen.
"Personal attention is the first thing we have to regain, following the report," the cardinal told a live TV press conference.
"We want to commit to maximum availability to victims," he said following admissions by a bishop that he paid a victim and amid allegations of a church cover-up.
"We have to listen to their questions," he said of parishioners, "to re-establish their dignity and help to heal the suffering they have endured.
"We want to learn the lessons of the errors of the past. The reflections and conclusions contained in the report (on sexual abuse in the church) will be taken on board," he said.
A report on Friday published by the Commission on Church-related Sexual Abuse Complaints, set up by the Catholic Church and headed by independent child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens, said it had investigated 475 complaints between January and June this year.
Leonard "reiterated" his call on guilty priests and church workers to confess, saying past pleas to come forward had "not really been heard."
The Belgian church said it wanted to create a centre for "recognition, reconciliation and healing" but that given the scale of the challenge, it would not be ready before late December.
© 2010 AFP