Benedict XVI "Surprised" by Belgian Raids

Laments «Deplorable Manner» of Police Searches

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2010 ( Benedict XVI expressed his «surprise» upon hearing of the «deplorable manner» in which a series of raids were carried out by Belgian police on several church offices of the archdiocese of Malines-Brussels in search of secret documents regarding child sexual abuse.

The Pope expressed his concern in a letter of support sent today to Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Malines-Brussels, and president of Belgium’s episcopal conference.

The police arrived at 10:30 Thursday morning to the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, where the bishops of Belgium were meeting for their monthly meeting. The authorities detained the bishops at the headquarters for nine hours as they searched the offices and the Cathedral of Malines.

At that time they drilled holes in the two graves of cardinals Jozef Ernest Van Roey and Leon Joseph Suenens, deceased archbishops of Malines-Brussels, located in the crypt of the cathedral, and then sent cameras down in search of hidden documents.

In addition to the headquarters of the archbishopric of Brussels, the authorities seized some 500 confidential files In Leuven, Belgium, from the office of Peter Adriaensses, president of the commission for the treatment of sexual abuses. The home of former archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, was also searched.

«In this sad moment,» the Pontiff wrote, «I would like to express my particular nearness and solidarity with you, dear brother in the episcopate, and with all the bishops of the Church in Belgium, in the wake of the surprising and deplorable manner in which the searches were carried out in the Cathedral of Malines and the place where the Belgian episcopate was gathered in a plenary session that, among other things, was also to have treated matters connected with the abuse of minors by members of the clergy.»

Benedict XVI underlined the need for both Church and civil authorities to deal with the sexual abuse crisis, but added that it should be done «with respect to their reciprocal specificity and autonomy.»

«In this sense I desire that justice take its course,» he concluded, «with a guarantee for the fundamental rights of persons and institutions, in respect to the victims, in recognition without prejudice of those who are committed to cooperate with it and in the rejection of all that casts a shadow on the noble work assigned to it.»

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