The Vatican has confirmed this week that it is following up reports of sexual abuse of nuns by priests, mainly in Africa. Fr Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Pope's senior spokesman, said that there was a problem involving 'a small minority of people' which was being treated very seriously by the bishops, and the superiors of the religious orders around the world. The issue was raised, following a damning report by America's National Catholic Reporter, which analysed several studies, conducted over the past five years, indicating that dozens of nuns had been raped or sexually harassed by priests and even bishops. It documented cases where nuns had become pregnant and some had contracted Aids. One report was conducted by Sr Maura O'Donoghue, a Medical Missionary of Mary, while she was working in Africa as an AIDS consultant with CAFOD in 1995. Another study, by Sr Marie Macdonald, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa named 23 countries where female religious had been abused. Most incidents had taken place in sub-Saharan Africa: Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tonga, Uganda, Zambia, Zaire and Zimbabwe, but the report says there had also been cases in India, Colombia, the Philippines, the USA, Italy and Ireland. Fr Navarro-Valls said: "We are working on both sides of the question of the formation of persons and the solutions to single cases." He said: "Several negative situations should never allow us to forget the often heroic fidelity, of the overwhelming majority of men and women religious and priests."
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