Pope decries search of Belgian archbishop's offices as 'surprising and deplorable'

.- In a message to Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard after the June 24 raid of the Cathedral of Mechelen and the archbishop's office, Pope Benedict expressed his solidarity with the Belgian bishops for the "surprising and deplorable manner" in which the police search was carried out.

In a situation which has been compared to a Da Vinci Code plot twist, on June 24 in Mechelen, Belgium, a number of Belgian bishops participating in a plenary session were locked in their meeting room for nine hours by authorities while the archbishop's office and the cathedral were combed for information related to cases of sexual abuse in the archdiocese.

The Holy See's secretary for relations with states Archbishop Dominique Mamberti co-authored a statement the day after the occurrence in which he expressed his "great amazement" for the way in which the search was conducted.

The Pope's reaction to the incident was released by the Holy See's Press Office on Sunday afternoon. Benedict XVI said in his telegram to Archbishop Leonard that "in this sad moment" he wishes to express his "particular closeness and solidarity" to him and to those bishops under his supervision "for the surprising and deplorable manner in which searches were carried out in the Cathedral of Malines and in the site where the Belgian episcopate was gathered in a plenary assembly which, among other things, also intended to consider questions associated with the abuse of minors by members of the clergy."

Benedict XVI went on to say that he has on numerous occasions emphasized that "these serious matters should be dealt with by both civil law and canon law, while respecting the specific nature and autonomy of each.

"In this context, I trust that justice may run its course in order to guarantee the fundamental rights of persons and of institutions, at the same time respecting victims, showing unconditional recognition for those who undertake to collaborate, and rejecting everything that obscures the noble goal with which justice is assigned."

Archbishop Leonard will be in the Vatican for the conferral of the pallium during the Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on Tuesday at St. Peter's Basilica.

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