Belgian child abuse victims sue Vatican

Belgians who claim they were abused by priests in the Catholic Church are to take legal action against the Vatican.

Lawyers for the group of more than 80 victims announced on Thursday that they were filing a class-action suit against the Holy See, the first such legal action in Europe.

They accuse the Church of harmful neglect for failing to take action when suspected cases of abuse were brought to its attention.

A lawyer for the group, Christine Mussche, told reporters: “There were instructions from the pope that said those things had to be kept secret and silent.”

The group is pressing ahead with the case after rejecting offers from the Belgian Catholic Church to pay compensation to victims of abuse by clergy.

The text of the summons is to be translated into Italian before being delivered to the Vatican in the next few days.

The Pope enjoys diplomatic immunity but other Vatican officials and Belgian bishops will be summoned to appear before a court in Ghent.

Around 500 suspected cases of abuse have been registered in Belgium in the past year.

Last year, a lawsuit was filed against the Pope and the Vatican by a man in the US who said he had been abused by a Catholic priest.