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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
SA Catholics admit abuse
The Pope summoned American cardinals to a crisis meeting in Rome
The Pope says child abuse was an appalling sin
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in South Africa has admitted that about a dozen priests have been accused of sexually abusing children in country.

"All I can say is that we have had a dozen cases involving Catholic priests in different parts of the country," Cardinal Wilfred Napier told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

It's embarrassing, its a tragedy, its a great crime against the innocence of the child.

Cardinal Wilfred Napier
However, he said that the cases had taken place many years ago.

Cardinal Napier's admission comes in the wake of a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the United States.

It prompted the Pope to summon American Catholic cardinals priests to Rome amid allegations of a cover-up.


"It's embarrassing, it's a tragedy, it's a great crime against the innocence of the child," Cardinal Napier said.

"One would feel the embarrassment, the sadness and the hurt that is also suffered by the people themselves."

Cardinal Wilfed Napier said the priests found to have abused children will not necessarily be expelled from the priesthood, but he added that some of them have already chosen to leave the Church.

He described paedophilia as a pathological condition that needed treatment.

Similar scandals

At the crisis meeting in Rome, the Pope made his strongest condemnation yet of sexual abuse by priests.

He told American cardinals there was no place in the Roman Catholic Church for priests who sexually abused children.

Although sex abuse scandals have rocked dioceses in other nations, only the American cardinals have been called to the Vatican.

Similar scandals have hit the clergy in different countries in recent years, including Austria, Ireland, Poland, France and Mexico.

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Europe
Paedophile priests face expulsion
24 Apr 02 | Americas
Analysis: US cardinals get message
22 Apr 02 | Americas
US Catholics worry for future
23 Apr 02 | Europe
A global scandal
23 Apr 02 | Europe
Text of the Pope's speech
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