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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Sex scandal hits Philippine Church
Bishop Teodoro Bacani
Accused priest, Bishop Bacani, is a well-known campaigner for the poor
One of the Philippines' most prominent Roman Catholic clerics is being investigated for sexual misconduct.

Bishop Teodoro Bacani is accused of sexually harassing his secretary earlier this year.

The bishop issued a statement on Monday saying he was "deeply sorry for the consequences of any inappropriate expression of affection to my secretary".

He then left the Philippines for a planned holiday in America.

Bishop Bacani, 62, is one of the country's best-known priests.

He writes a regular newspaper column, in which he is an outspoken government critic and advocate for the poor.

President Gloria Arroyo said on Monday that the government would not intervene in the case "unless there is a culpable violation of law".

"I am saddened by the turn of events, but I also know that the church has the leadership, fortitude, and strength to surmount these trials," she said in a statement.

She also urged the public not to "dwell on speculations or rumours" surrounding the case.

Romualdo Ranada, a spokesman for Mr Bacani, also said it was important not to "pre-judge the case".

Both clerics and lay people in the diocese were standing by the bishop, he said in an interview with local television.

Mr Ranada said the Vatican was now looking into the matter, and would decide on a course of action "that would be best for the people and the Church".

A series of sex abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in several countries in recent years, notably the United States.

The Philippines Church made the unprecedented move last year of publicly apologising for abuses committed by its priests.

About 85% of the Philippines' 82m people follow the religion, making it Asia's largest Roman Catholic country.




SEE ALSO:
Former HK priest jailed for abuse
17 Feb 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Catholic Church in crisis
16 Dec 02  |  Americas
Philippines Cardinal Sin taken ill
30 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Philippines bans txt confessions
04 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Philippines bishop bans pregnant brides
25 Feb 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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