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Tuesday, 14 April, 1998, 20:35 GMT 21:35 UK
'Exile' for disgraced Austrian cardinal
Cardinal Groer has asked for forgiveness but makes no admission of guilt
Cardinal Groer has asked for forgiveness but makes no admission of guilt
The news agency of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria says a former Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, is to go into exile, because of accusations against him of sexual misconduct.

The report follows the release of a statement by the church in Vienna in which Cardinal Groer, 78, asked for forgiveness but made no admission of guilt.

"In the past three years there have been many often incorrect statements concerning me. I ask God and the people for forgiveness if I have brought guilt upon myself," he says in the statement.

Cardinal Groer stepped down as head of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria in 1995 following charges that he had sexually abused a schoolboy 20 years earlier. After his resignation there were further allegations that he sexually molested monks.

Papal investigantion

The charges were ignored by the Church hierarchy until two months ago when a papal investigation commenced. The inquiry was ordered by the Pope after appeals from chuch leaders to settle the controversy and restore the Church's status in Austria.

Now the statement follows a request from the Pope that Cardinal Groer give up his duties and is being taken as a sign that the investigation has found against him.

The BBC correspondent in Vienna says many Catholics in Austria are bitterly divided over the issue and some have accused the Church of covering up.

The Bishop's chancellery in Vienna said no further steps are expected from Rome. The correspondent says this is likely to further offend the many Catholics who think Hermann Groer should no longer be a cardinal.

Reports say the Cardinal may go to a monastery in Germany or Sweden.

See also:

02 Mar 98 | Despatches
Vatican probes Austrian prelate
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