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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Pope orders Austria abuse inquiry
The Pope
The investigator will report directly to the Pope
Pope John Paul II has ordered an investigation into allegations of abuse and sexual impropriety at a seminary in St Poelten, near Vienna, Austria.

Bishop Klaus Kueng of the Austrian city of Feldkirch has been appointed by the Vatican to investigate the scandal.

Monday saw a Polish student at the seminary charged with the possession and distribution of child pornography.

The affair has shocked Austria and embarrassed the Catholic Church, which has faced as series of scandals.

A state prosecutor said images of child pornography and violent pornography were found on the college's main computer and the student's hard drive.

The images are also reported to include pictures of students kissing and fondling each other and their older instructors.

The state prosecutor said the police investigation had focused only on the child pornography aspect of the case, as "homosexual relations between consenting adults not involving the abuse of an authority relationship" was not a crime in Austria.

Resignation calls

Bishop Kueng will act as an "apostolic visitor" - or papal investigator - for the diocese of St Poulten and its seminary.

A member of the conservative Catholic organisation, Opus Dei, will report his findings directly to the Pope.

His appointment signals the end of an inquiry headed by the bishop in charge of the seminary, Kurt Krenn, according to the Archdiocese of Vienna.

Bishop Krenn has rejected calls for his resignation, having earlier said the images at the centre of scandal depicted a "schoolboy prank".

The seminary director and his deputy have already resigned.

The BBC's Bethany Bell
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