Three priests and layman charged in Spanish sexual abuse case

MADRID Thu Nov 27, 2014 10:03am EST

(Reuters) – Spanish magistrates have charged four people, including three Catholic priests, with sex offences following a child abuse investigation instigated by Pope Francis.

The priests, along with a lay person, were arrested on Monday as part of an investigation in Granada, southern Spain, and have been released from custody. One of them had to pay bail of 10,000 euros (12,479 US dollars), the Supreme Court of the Andalusia region said on Thursday.

The case came to light when a man wrote to Pope Francis saying he had been molested when he was an altar boy. A second person has since come forward with similar allegations, according to the Supreme Court.

After a series of scandals in recent years, with abuse by Catholic clerics exposed in many European, American and Asian dioceses, Francis has promised a hard line on such cases.

The pope said this week he had personally ordered an investigation into the allegations in Granada.

“The truth is the truth and we should not hide it,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Zaragoza, in northeastern Spain, separately said on Thursday it had launched its own probe into allegations by a former deacon that he had been abused by a priest.

El Mundo newspaper reported on Thursday that the Vatican had been informed of the scandal and had pressed the Archbishop, Manuel Urena, to step aside for sanctioning a payment to the ex-deacon, who had recently asked to leave the church.

The archdiocese said in a statement Urena had asked to leave for health reasons and that an internal investigation of the “supposed facts” had been started. It added that the priest at the center of the allegations was pursuing legal action.

The Zaragoza diocese said it had made a one-off payment of 60,000 euros in November to the former deacon but did not specify what this was for.

(Additional reporting by Isla Binnie in Rome; ed

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