Belgian church apologises over paedophile priest

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The Belgian Catholic church apologised Wednesday as a priest lost his appeal against paedophile charges ranging over seven years.

The archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, around the Belgian capital, confirmed that former priest Robert Borremans lost an appeal against a prison sentence for rape and other acts against a minor.

The diocese, in a statement, offered its apology for "these serious acts".

Borremans received a five-year jail term in early 2008, with three years suspended, for acts committed against a boy between 1994 and 2001.

That sentence was confirmed Wednesday by the Brussels appeal court.

The disgraced priest presided over the marriage of Belgium's Crown Prince Philippe to Princess Mathilde in 1999.

"The charges against him and of which he has been found guilty are grave, especially as they were committed by a priest," the local church said in its statement.

"The officials of the Malines-Brussels diocese wish to express their sorrow and their shame at such unjustifiable actions" and "offer the most humble apology to the victim and his family," the message said.

Canon Herman Cosijns told AFP that details of the case had been handed to the Vatican, which could decide whether to strip the culprit of his priesthood.

A new archbishop, Andre Leonard, was named to the diocese in January.

In a recent sermon he denounced the "guilty silence" of the church on the question of paedophilia.

After those comments Belgian bishops proposed setting up an enquiry commission to look into how the church had handled cases of paedophilia among members of the clergy in the past.

Last week, a priest who has helped many victims claimed that Belgian bishops had failed to punish any clergymen despite 300 complaints of paedophilia brought to their attention in the 1990s.

© 2010 AFP

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