Page last updated at 03:40 GMT, Saturday, 14 March 2009

Sex claims against US Church rise

Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful at St Peter's square
The Pope has criticised US bishops for their handling of sex abuse scandals

The number of new claims of sexual abuse made against US Roman Catholic priests rose by 16% to more than 800 last year, a Church report says.

It says the Church paid $436m (313m) in 2008 for abuse cases. Most of the money was used to compensate victims.

The study covered almost 200 dioceses and religious orders across the US.

It found that more than one in five victims were under the age of 10 when they were abused.

Although the number of claims made against the Church rose in 2008, the total cost dropped by 29% compared to the previous year.

The Associated Press news agency said 2007 was an unusually high year, when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began paying a $660m settlement to about 500 people.

The annual review tracks progress made in implementing the Charter for the Protection of Children, adopted by US bishops following a scandal in Boston in 2002.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said the Church was "on the right path" in its quest to better protect "all children in society".

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