Thu, September 04, 2008
World > Asia-Pacific

Ex-priest in Australia faces 93 child sex charges

2008-09-04 05:55:25 GMT2008-09-04 13:55:25 (Beijing Time) China Daily

Activists protesting sexual abuse in the Catholic church, seen here in mid July, demonstrate outside St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. A former Catholic priest has been charged with 60 fresh offences relating to sex assaults on boys while working at a prestigious boarding school in the 1970s and 80s. [Agencies]

SYDNEY -- A former priest has been charged with 93 child sex offences stemming from an alleged paedophile ring at a Catholic boy's school, police said on Wednesday.

The 65-year-old was arrested and charged with the offences police allege took place from late 1970s to the early 1980s, according to a statement issued by the New South Wales police.

Police suspect dozens of boys may have been abused during alleged hypnotic "prayer" sessions at St Stanislaus College, located 75 kilometres (45 miles) east of Sydney, according to local media reports.

The former priest, who was not named in the statement, was charged in May with 33 offences stemming from evidence of alleged victims, and a further 60 offences on Wednesday relating to at least 13 alleged victims, police said.

He was released on bail on Tuesday and is due to appear in court on September 15.

St. Stanislaus' principal John Edwards last week told local media he first became aware of the allegations "several years ago" and referred the claims to police.

The allegations reportedly included claims of late night prayer and chanting sessions in which boys were sexually abused.

A total of 615 boys attend St Stanislaus' and 188 live on the campus as borders.

The priest is the fourth person arrested by the Strike Force Belle police unit, which is investigating a number of sexual assault offences that allegedly occurred at one Catholic and one Anglican secondary school in the town of Bathurst in the 1970s, according to the police statement.

"We are currently sifting through a significant amount of information and as a result we have broadened this investigation," Detective Superintendent Michael Goodwin said in the statement.

"Inquiries are continuing and we cannot rule out further arrests," he said.

The allegations came to light five weeks after Pope Benedict apologised for sexual abuse in the Church during a visit to Sydney.

Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy shadowed the pope's week-long visit to Sydney in July, with emotional pleas by victims and their families for the pope to ensure that the Church deals openly with the issue.

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