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Dutch Catholics come out about sexual abuse

Published:Wednesday | March 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP):

Dutch Catholic bishops announced an independent inquiry yesterday into allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests at church schools, and apologised to victims.

"Bishops and religious workers offer their deep-felt sympathy and apologies to those who were victims of abuse in Catholic boarding schools," the Dutch Bishops Conference said in a statement released after the top bishops met in the central city of Zeist.

The inquiry followed more than 200 reports of sexual abuse filed with the Church victims' support organisation Hulp en Recht in recent days.

Further investigation

"The number of reports of abuse in former Catholic educational establishments require further investigation," the bishops said.

The probe will be led by a Protestant, former government minister and ex-mayor of The Hague, Wim Deetman.

The scandal started with allegations last month of repeated incidents within a single cloister, but has quickly spread.

"It is a painful conclusion and a sin that must be confessed that a number of priests and church workers have failed to carefully associate with children and youths, particularly halfway through the last century," the Dutch Priests' Conference said in the statement.

It was not immediately clear how long the investigation would take.

Previous abuse cases have been publicised in the Netherlands, as in other countries, but the Dutch Justice Ministry has so far addressed them individually.