|Fresh Child Sex Abuse Allegations Rock Catholic Church Ahead of Pope's UK Visit
By Nick Pisa
September 10, 2010
The Roman Catholic Church was today embroiled in fresh child sexual abuse claims just days before the Pope is due to visit Britain.
A Belgian commission looking into sexual abuse by Catholic clergy says it has received testimony from hundreds of victims.
The commission's chairman Peter Adriaenssens said 488 witnesses came forward, most of them after the April resignation of a bishop for sexual abuse set off a deep crisis within the Belgian church.
A report by the commission lists in great detail how victims say they were abused by clergy, and lists one witness as saying it started as young as two.
The Belgian government says that an investigation into abuse can continue even though a June raid it led on the archdiocese has been ruled illegal.
Pope Benedict XVI will visit Britain next week where he is expected to face protest from a number of groups.
This week protesters picketed the Vatican Embassy in London to highlight alleged child sex abuse by priests.
It was revealed today he will acknowledge the bravery of the RAF pilots and civilians who gave their lives in the Battle of Britain.
The German-born Pope, who was drafted into the Hitler Youth while a teenager growing up in Nazi Germany, will also pay his respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
A homage to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend the country against Adolf Hitler's Luftwaffe was drawn into the Papal programme because of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Between July 1940 and May 1941, during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz 43,381 civilians were killed and 50,856 injured, while pilot losses were 544 and 422 wounded.
Today Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope's official spokesman, said: 'The Pope's visit takes place during the anniversary for the Battle of Britain and during that time the country resisted with great courage.
'They suffered extensive and wide-scale attacks at the hands of the Nazi bombers. it was a critical part of World War Two with many lives lost.
'We know that in the Battle of Britain is a very important factor in British history and it is natural that as the visit takes place during the anniversary the Holy Father will make a reference to it.
'Those days are well remembered and as everyone knows the Pope is German and there will be a mention of these events from him. The Pope will stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.'
Pope Benedict will arrive in Britain next Thursday for a four day visit and 24 hours earlier the country will remember its heroes in the Battle of Britain Day.
The day is significant because on 15 September 1940, two massive waves of German attacks were decisively repulsed by the RAF - the total casualties on this critical day were 60 German and 26 RAF aircraft shot down.
The German defeat caused Hitler to order, two days later, the postponement of preparations for the invasion of Britain and it led to a switch in tactics from Hitler with night-time raids replacing daylight ones.
Pope Benedict was drafted into the Hitler Youth in 1941, when he was 14 and last week he spoke of his time within its ranks and said: 'We were closed in by a dominant power, we wanted to get out and enjoy the fullness of the possibilities of being human.'
He is expected to mention the Battle of Britain when he gives a speech at Westminster Hall next Friday and when he will visit the tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
It holds the remains of an unidentified British soldier killed in the trenches of France during World War, with the exact place he fell never being revealed so that he might serve as a symbol for all of the unknown dead wherever they fell.
Father Lombardi also revealed how in a break with traditional protocol The Duke of Edinburgh will personally greet Pope Benedict when he lands at Edinburgh on behalf of the Queen.
'Usually it is a junior member of the royal family or a minister but to have the Duke of Edinburgh at the welcome is very significant and most unusual,' he said.
He said that the Pope would give Queen Elizabeth a copy of a 1200 year old Lorsch Gospels and which was split during the Middle Ages.
One half is kept in the Vatican Library and features a beautifully decorated front cover showing Christ treading on demons and the back cover showing the Virgin Mary and child is kept in London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
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