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Portugal president apologises over paedophilia gaffe

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Thursday apologised to victims of paedophilia in the Catholic church after appearing to downplay the scale of the problem.

“My intention was never to offend the victims but if some have felt offended then I apologise as that was not my goal,” De Sousa, a 73-year-old ardent Catholic, told a news conference.

De Sousa was forced to row back after throwaway he comments Tuesday that 424 reported cases of abuse in Portugal following an investigation, was “not a particularly high number,” in global terms.

An independent commission looking into the Portuguese cases and which is due to issue its final report in January has indicated that the true toll of cases is “much greater” than those it has been able to unearth thus far.

Commission head Pedro Strecht says he believes there were “several hundred” perpetrators of abuse nationwide.