The Vatican said Friday it was indignant and astonished at raids by Belgian police investigating child sex abuse that included a search of the graves of two archbishops.
In a statement it also expressed its “dismay” after the raid on Thursday on buildings of the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese, including the episcopal palace at Mechelen, north of the Belgian capital.
The Vatican voiced “astonishment over how the searches were carried out yesterday by Belgian judicial authorities and its indignation over the violation of the graves of the Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Leon-Joseph Suenens.”
A spokesman for Brussels prosecutors said the raid, involving dozens of officers and investigators, followed a string of accusations “denouncing abuse of minors committed by a certain number of Church figures.”
The search focused on letters exchanged between alleged victims of paedophile priests and Church authorities.
It included the crypt in Mechelen cathedral, with investigations making holes in the tombs of two former Belgian primates and sending down cameras in search of hidden documents, without success, according to a Church spokesman.
The Vatican Secretariat of State, headed by number two Tarcisio Bertone, expressed regret over the “violation of confidentiality of precisely those victims for whom the raids were carried out,” the statement said.
The Vatican also said it “firmly condemns any sinful and criminal act of minor abuse by members of the Church.”
The Roman Catholic Church in Belgium has endured some of the worst of the worldwide paedophilia scandal besetting the Vatican, having been rocked in April when its longest-serving bishop, 73-year-old Roger Vangheluwe, resigned from his Bruges post after admitting sexually abusing a boy for years.