Bishop at centre of paedophilia scandal leaves Belgium

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The ex-bishop at the centre of the Belgian Catholic Church's paedophilia scandal has left Belgium under Vatican orders to seek spiritual and psychological treatment, the Holy See's embassy said Saturday.

Roger Vangheluwe resigned as bishop of Bruges last year when he admitted sexually abusing his nephew between 1973 and 1986, plunging the Church into a deep crisis. He went into seclusion following his resignation.

After reviewing his case, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which judges the most serious offences, decided to ask Vangheluwe to leave Belgium, the Vatican's nunciature in Brussels said in a statement.

The decision was made even though the statute of limitations in the case had expired under canonic law, the nunciature said. It did not say what country he was heading to.

Vangheluwe must "undergo a period of spiritual and psychological treatment," the statement said. The former bishop has lived in different locations, "without a permanent address," since his resignation in April last year, it said.

The nunciature did not say if the Vatican decided to defrock Vangheluwe, a decision that would rest in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI.

Vangheluwe has apologised to his victim, the victim's family, the Church and others. However many have called for him to be dismissed from the Church.

Following his resignation, a Church-backed commission revealed in September nearly 500 cases of abuse by Belgian priests and lay workers since the 1950s, including 13 victims who committed suicide.

© 2011 AFP

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