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Spanish prosecutor to gather information on Catholic Church child abuse

by Reuters Journalist

Spain's public prosecutor has ordered regional offices to look into all ongoing judicial investigations into the sexual abuse of minors by the Catholic Church, while parliament took a first step towards potentially opening its own investigation.

The prosecutor has given each region 10 days to compile the information, a prosecutor source told Reuters on Tuesday.

Spain's Bishops' Conference did not reply to a request for comment. 

The move comes after Spain's Catholic Church said last month it would set up commissions at diocese level to hear complaints from abuse victims, following a meeting by its senior leaders with the Pope in Rome.

The Spanish Church has a special page on its website on how to handle abuse cases where it says when a complaint is made to the Church all evidence gathered would be sent directly to the Vatican. It also encourages victims to come forward and file the case at the prosecutor's office.

El Pais newspaper in December published the results of a three-year investigation it said uncovered potential abuse by 251 priests and some lay people from religious institutions against at least 1,237 victims between 1943 and 2018.

Last week, Spain's socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez met with Juan Jose Omella, the president of Spain's Bishops' Conference, and will meet this week with one alleged victim of abuse. 

The government said in a statement that the prosecutor, which operates independently, was acting "within the scope of its autonomy and competences". 

"These actions do not replace the measures that the government is considering in order to clarify the facts and avoid further cases," it said in a statement.

Separately, Spain's parliament approved a vote on a motion by some small leftist parties for it to set up its own investigation into the issue, though any such commission would take time to materialise and would likely face opposition from right-wing parties.

Sexual abuse scandals in the global Catholic Church first hit the headlines in 2002, when U.S. daily the Boston Globe wrote a series of articles exposing a abuse of minors by clerics and a widespread culture of concealment within the Church.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of cases have emerged around the world.

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