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Australia: bishop accused of rape and sexual assault arrested by police

2024-02-22T07:02:31.035Z

Highlights: Australia: bishop accused of rape and sexual assault arrested by police. Bishop Emeritus Christopher Alan Saunders, 74, faces 16 charges. He presided over a vast diocese for more than 20 years. The Vatican launched its own investigation in 2022, as part of the text “You are the light of the world” published in 2019 by Pope Francis. In 2019, Australian Cardinal George Pell, once considered the third most influential man in the Vatican, was sentenced to six years in prison for sexual assault on two altar boys.


Bishop Emeritus Christopher Alan Saunders, 74, faces 16 charges. He presided over a vast diocese for more than


He is one of the most senior Catholic clerics to face such serious charges.

An Australian bishop, accused of rape and sexual assault, was arrested by police on Wednesday after an internal investigation led by the Catholic Church.

Bishop Emeritus Christopher Alan Saunders faces 14 counts of unlawful and indecent assault and two counts of sexual penetration without consent, a legal term for rape, police said.

Aged 74, the prelate who is due to appear in court on Thursday, was also charged with three counts of “violating the modesty of a child” aged 16 to 18.

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, described the accusations as "deeply upsetting".

“It is right and appropriate, and even necessary, that all of these accusations be fully investigated,” he said in a statement.

“The Church will continue to cooperate fully with the police and will take all necessary measures to avoid any action likely to compromise the integrity and autonomy of the police investigation,” he also assured, quoted by The Independent .

The Vatican launches its own investigation

For more than 20 years, the prelate presided over the diocese of Broome, a vast region located in the state of Western Australia where dozens of isolated Aboriginal communities live.

According to court documents, the acts were committed between 2008 and 2014. He resigned from his post as bishop in 2020 after local media reported suspicions of sexual assault against him.

However, he retained the honorary title of “bishop emeritus”.

Also read “I am no longer Catholic”: revolted by sexual abuse, these faithful turn their backs on the Church

An initial police investigation did not find sufficient evidence to charge the prelate who always denied the facts.

But faced with persistent rumors, the Vatican opened its own investigation in 2022, as part of the text “You are the light of the world” published in 2019 by Pope Francis.

In particular, it calls on all dioceses in the world to put in place a system allowing the public to report cases of attacks and details the progress of internal investigations which must be carried out locally and then transmitted to the Vatican for a possible trial.

The confidential findings of the investigation carried out by the Church were then communicated to the police who reopened an investigation.

In 2019, Australian Cardinal George Pell, once considered the third most influential man in the Vatican, was sentenced to six years in prison for sexual assault on two altar boys in the 1990s. The prelate was ultimately cleared given the benefit of the doubt by the Australian High Court and released in 2020.

Source: leparis

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