Pope Benedict XVI condemned raids by Belgian police investigating sex abuse by priests as "deplorable" and asserted the autonomy of the Catholic Church to investigate abuse.
In a message to the head of the Belgian bishops' conference, Monsignor Andre-Joseph Leonard, the Pope expressed solidarity with all Belgian bishops for the "surprising and deplorable way" in which Thursday's raids were carried out.
He said justice must take its course. But he also repeated that such crimes should be handled by both civil and canon law "respecting their reciprocal specificity and autonomy". Several buildings were searched in the raids, which targeted a retired archbishop and the graves of two prelates.