'Immense suffering' over child sex abuse: Belgian church leader

6th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A paedophilia scandal in which a bishop admitted to sexually abusing a boy has caused "immense suffering", Belgium's chief Catholic cleric said on the eve of a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI Friday.

"The episodes of paedophilia have been for us a source of great suffering, especially in thinking of the victims with whom we are in complete solidarity," Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard was quoted as saying in the Vatican daily l'Osservatore Romano.

The bishop of the Flemish city of Bruges quit his post last month after admitting to sexually abusing a young boy, in the country's first high-level resignation related to a paedophilia scandal sweeping the Roman Catholic church in Europe and the Americas.

"We will certainly discuss the painful questions arisen in our country after the resignation of the Bruges bishop," Leonard told Vatican Radio on Monday as he began a week of meetings at the Vatican.

Leonard and Belgian bishops were scheduled to meet with the pope on Friday.

The visit will likely come as a relief for Leonard, who has been accused of not taking action against a paedophile priest when he previously served as a bishop.

While the Belgian Catholic Church created a body to handle abuse allegation some 13 years ago, in the future bishops and victims will be encouraged "to file a complaint in court", Leonard told l'Osservatore Romano.

"First of all because the authorities have the means to conduct an investigation, and furthermore because we don't want to be accused of covering up for perpetrators," he added.

© 2010 AFP

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