Belgian bishops to speak with Pope about sexual abuse


The bishops of Belgium, led by Archbishop of Malines Bruxelles André-Joseph Leonard, are at the Holy See this week for their periodic visit to the "threshold of the apostles." Among other issues on the agenda for their time at the Vatican will be discussions regarding sexual abuse, which led to the resignation of a bishop last month.

The Belgian bishops' "ad Limina" visit started this morning and will wrap up on Friday in an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The bishops were joined by Fr. Koen Vanhoutte diocesan administrator for the recent vacated Diocese of Bruges, the secretary general for the Belgian bishops' conference and the diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Namur.

Archbishop Leonard, primate of Belgium spoke with Vatican Radio about the visit, saying, "Surely we will touch on the painful questions that have been placed in our country after the resignation of the bishop of Bruges."

On April 23, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Bishop Roger Joseph Vangheluwe from leading the Diocese of Bruges after his own admission of having committed sexual abuse of a minor.

Archbishop Leonard himself has recently been accused of covering up abuses in the 1990s.

"It's inevitable," the archbishop said, that the subject and the measures the Belgian Church plans to take to face the situation will be discussed in meetings at the Vatican this week.

Other subjects to be addressed will be "without doubt the challenges of secularization and also bioethical questions that in Belgium are particularly poignant, especially as far as they concern euthanasia."

Additionally, the question of inter-religious dialogue, "seeing as we are in a society where the immigration from Muslim countries is significant" and the promotion of vocations are to be addressed, according to the archbishop.

Archbishop Leonard also told Vatican Radio of the solidarity of the conference and that they were looking forward to the visit to tombs of the Apostles and the audience with the Pope and Roman Curia. He called the opportunities "privileged" moments in which the prelates can "deepen further the bonds of communion and of friendship that already unite us."

This morning, the bishops began the week of meetings by celebrating Mass in the crypt below St. Peter's Basilica.

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