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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 01:52 GMT
US Church offers abuse settlement
Hundreds have complained of abuse by US clergymen
A Roman Catholic diocese in the US state of Washington has agreed to pay at least $48m (24.7m) as compensation to people abused by priests.

A judge said the plan, designed to lift the Spokane diocese out of bankruptcy, includes non-economic provisions to give victims some "closure".

The Spokane diocese serves some 90,000 Catholics in Washington state.

It is the latest in a series of multi-million dollar settlements offered by US churches in abuse claims.

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Gregg W Zive told the Associated Press news agency the settlement also includes a mechanism for paying off future claims.

He said money for the settlement would come from insurance companies, the sale of church property, contributions from Catholic groups and from the diocese's parishes.

Victims and another bankruptcy judge must approve the move before it comes into effect.

In December last year, the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the US agreed to pay $60m (30m) to settle dozens of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests.

The settlement by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles related to 45 cases among more than 500 that are pending.

It was one of the largest settlements since the Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal erupted in the US in 2002.

In February 2004, a report commissioned by the Church said more than 4,000 Roman Catholic priests in the US had faced sexual abuse allegations in the last 50 years.

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