Portugal’s Catholic Church to set up committee to investigate child sex abuse

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Portugal’s Catholic Church has said it will set up a national committee to investigate the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

The new authority will coordinate the work of local church groups looking into possible cases of historical abuse by members of the clergy.

Portuguese bishops said on Thursday that the committee will “strengthen and broaden” the church’s response to any abuse allegations.

Plans for the national committee were announced after a four-day meeting at the Fátima shrine in central Portugal.

“We are not afraid” of this issue, said Bishop José Ornelas, president of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference (CEP).

It comes after a bombshell report last month revealed large-scale child sex abuse within the French Catholic Church.

An independent commission estimated that some 330,000 children were sexually abused more than 70 years by French priests or other church-related figures.

Two years ago, Portuguese church officials said authorities had investigated only about a dozen allegations of sexual abuse involving Portuguese priests since 2001.

More than half of those cases were dropped because church investigators decided there was not enough evidence to pursue them.

More than 200 prominent Catholics sent a letter to the Bishops’ Conference earlier this month urging them to launch a similar investigation to France.

Church officials have not said who will sit on the national committee to act as a “listening post” for developments in investigations.

The 21 local groups across the country assessing child sex abuse cases are made up largely of laypeople, including lawyers, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

The groups were set up following Pope Francis’s appeal in 2019 for the church to address abuse allegations.

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