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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Abuse claims dog US priests
Church altar
Abuse claims are causing mistrust in the Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has become the latest in the United States to suspend priests amid allegations that they sexually abused children in the past.

A statement from the Diocese said nine priests had been suspended while prosecutors investigated the charges.

All of us can become more alert to the dangers, more protective of potential victims

Bishop Anthony M Pilla
The diocese has also named 12 other priests who it said were "no longer in active ministry because of allegations in the past of abuse of minors".

The suspensions are the latest incident in an ongoing campaign by the Catholic Church to resolve claims of child abuse.

At the weekend, six priests from the Archdiocese of New York were suspended over similar charges.

And in Ireland, allegations of sex abuse of children by priests has led Roman Catholic bishops there to commission an independent review.

Archbishop Sean Brady, Primate of All ireland, has apologised for failings in the way the Church had responded to complaints and said he hoped the review would be aprt of the healing process.

In a statement to parishioners, the Bishop of Cleveland, Anthony M Pilla, said: "I share your grief over this terrible circumstance in the life of our Church."

Cleveland diocesan official Robert Tayek said an internal investigation had revealed no new allegations against the priests.

Evidence submitted

"To our knowledge, they have been successfully performing their ministries without incident," he said.

He said that the priests would remain on administrative leave until the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office had reviewed the allegations.

All material regarding the abuse allegations was being collected to be handed over to prosecutors.

The Rev Don Rooney
The Rev Don Rooney shot himself after being accused of sexual misconduct
He said the diocese was conducting its own review of the allegations.

In his statement distributed to parishioners at weekend services, Bishop Pilla said that "the issue of sexual abuse is a matter of open and public discussion".

"In this way, all of us can become more alert to the dangers, more protective of potential victims, more pastorally responsive to those who have been victims of abuse and more effective in dealing with those responsible for the abuse of minors," he said.

Another priest in the diocese, the Rev Don Rooney, killed himself last week after being accused of sexual misconduct in 1980.

The Cleveland diocese has 235 parishes with more than 340 priests.

BBC News Online's Peter Gould says that the growing number of allegations is creating a climate of mistrust in the Catholic church.

Claims that church leaders may have kept quiet about the problem has increased public anger.

The BBC's Alice Cairns
"The stream of allegations is threatening to undermine the whole Catholic Church"
See also:

06 Apr 02 | Americas
Accused US priest found dead
08 Apr 02 | Americas
US priests suspended over sex claims
21 Mar 02 | Europe
Pope denounces 'evil' sex priests
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