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 Pope Lashes Out at Belgium After Raid on Church

(unbelievable, 'papa' doesnt fear God, why should he fear legal authorities? i just grieve for our brothers and sisters trapped in 'rome' who love Jesus, 'rome' is a prison, and may Jesus set the captives free, amen.)

ROME — In a sign of sharply rising tensions between the Vatican and Belgium, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday criticized as “surprising and deplorable” a raid on church property last week by Belgian police officers investigating sexual abuse by clerics.

In an exceedingly rare personal message and rebuke of a sovereign country, the pontiff also stressed the church’s “autonomy” to conduct its own investigations and criticized the “deplorable methods” of the Belgian police, who detained bishops, confiscated files and even drilled into the tombs of at least one cardinal in the Cathedral of Mechelen, north of Brussels, in a search for documents.

“On several occasions I have personally reiterated that such serious issues should be attended to by both civil and canon law, with respect for their reciprocal specificity and autonomy,” Benedict said in a statement circulated by the Vatican on Sunday.

He also expressed his “closeness and solidarity” with the Belgian clergy and André-Joseph Léonard, the archbishop of Belgium and the president of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference.

The raid on Thursday came months after the Belgian church, stung by allegations of sexual abuse by clerics, created a committee to investigate claims.

On Thursday, the police in Leuven, Belgium, also confiscated the case files of that committee and the computer of its director, a well-respected child psychiatrist. The committee director, church authorities and the Vatican have criticized the police, saying they had violated the privacy of the victims who had come forward.

That day, the police also searched the Mechelen home and former office of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop Leonard’s predecessor as head of the Belgian church, and took documents and his personal computer. They have not said whether the cardinal himself is under investigation.

The police raided the church headquarters in Mechelen, the palace of the archbishop of Brussels-Mechelen, on Thursday morning as the bishops began their monthly meeting and detained them and their staff for nine hours.

On Saturday, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, called the detention of bishops “serious and unbelievable” and compared the police tactics to those of Communist regimes. He also said that the bishops had been deprived of food and water while they were detained.

On Sunday, the Belgian justice minister denied that assertion, as did the spokesman for the Belgian Bishops’ Conference, who in a statement circulated by the Vatican on Friday said that the raid had been conducted “correctly.”

In his message on Sunday, Benedict said he hoped that “justice will run its course,” guaranteeing “the fundamental rights of people and institutions” and “the respect for victims.”

Doreen Carvajal contributed reporting from Brussels.

 2010/6/27 20:55

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