Church voices shock over Belgian police raid on tombs

Cardinal Bertone - picture: Wikimedia - Wulfstan

Cardinal Bertone - picture: Wikimedia - Wulfstan

Church leaders have protested over the raids by Belgian police on Church premises last Thursday. Describing the police actions as "serious and unbelievable", Vatican secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, expressed shock that investigators had opened the graves of two archbishops in St Rombouts Cathedral in Mechlin during their search; several buildings had been raided; priests were held for nine hours without eating or drinking and bishops holding a meeting were barred from leaving the premises for several hours.

Cardinal Bertone said: "It was sequestration, a serious and unbelievable act" .."there are no precedents, not even under the old communist regimes".

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Church in Belgium, particularly condemned the search of the cathedral, saying it was the stuff of "crime novels and 'The Da Vinci Code'"

Police said they were searching for evidence in relation to alleged child abuse cases. Among items seized by police were documents and a computer from the independent commission investigating abuse allegations.  The Vatican said the raid on the commission  was a "violation of confidentiality of precisely those victims for whom the raids were carried out".

The Vatican has now summoned the Belgian ambassador to the Holy See to express its concern at the incident.

In a statement, the Vatican said any criminal abuse of minors by members of the church must be condemned, and it repeated that there is a need for justice and amends. But it added: "The Secretariat of State also expresses astonishment at the way in which the search took place." It expressed "outrage over the violation of the tombs".

Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference, called the raids "brutal",  saying  "there is something that goes beyond the legitimate requirements of justice."

In a front-page editorial  on Saturday the paper said: "Does such an assault not assume a symbolic meaning, is it not the sign of a desire to attack the Church in its entirety?"

See also: Belgium - police raid church offices

Source: BBC/Avvenire/VIS

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