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Belgium: Seventy clerical sex abuse victims to sue Vatican

last update: April 29, 18:00

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Brussels, 29 April (AKI) - A group of 70 people who claim they were sexually abused by clergy will sue the Vatican and Belgian church officials for failing to protect them from pedophile priests, their lawyer said on Friday.

Walter Van Steenbrugge said he would begin the legal action around mid-May.

Since the United States sex abuse scandal shook the world in 2002, major abuse scandals have engulfed the Catholic church in several European countries, most notably Belgium, Germany, and in Ireland - where Pope Benedict XVI issued a historic apology in March 2010.

Top church officials, including Benedict himself have been accused of failing to take proper action to prevent such abuse.

The abuse involves thousands of victims in cases over several decades.

The Belgian church was embroiled in a major sex abuse scandal last year when Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe was forced to resign after he admitted he abused molesting one of his young nephews for 13 years.

Hundreds of Belgian victims subsequently came forward with tales of abuse by clergy going back decades.

In recent interview with commercial TV station VT4, a defiant Vangheluwe admitted to having sexually abused his other nephew as well.

A federal investigation into child abuse by Vangheluwe is underway. Now aged 75, he is likely to escape prosecution.

The Vatican earlier in April issued details of the punishment the Church had imposed on the the self-confessed paedophile former Bishop. He was to leave Belgium (which he has since done) and undergo “spiritual and psychological” treatment.

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