Police raid offices, home of retired archbishop

Brussels, Belgium - Police raided the home and office of the recently retired archbishop of Belgium on Thursday, carrying off documents and a personal computer as part of an investigation into the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, officials said.

Police and prosecutors would not say if former Archbishop Godfried Danneels was suspected of abuse himself or simply had records pertaining to allegations against another person.

The raids followed recent statements to police "that are related to the sexual abuse of children within the church," said Jean-Marc Meilleur, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor's office.

Police also searched the office of a committee that is investigating sexual abuse claims with help from the church, but did not immediately give details. The committee has already opened 120 abuse cases but expects the number to soon double.

Police took documents, but did not question Danneels at his home in the city of Mechlin, just north of Brussels, said Hans Geybels, the spokesman for the former archbishop.

"They did take away his computer," he said.

Geybels added Danneels was fully cooperating.

"The cardinal believes justice must run its normal course. He has nothing against that," he said

Danneels was a leading liberal voice in Europe's church before he retired in January.

But he returned to the limelight when, in April 26, Belgium's longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned after admitting to having sexually abused a young boy during the time that Danneels was archbishop.

The resignation led a former priest, Rik Deville, to say that he warned Danneels at least 15 years ago that Vangheluwe had abused a boy. Danneels said in April, "I cannot remember such a discussion."

Meilleur said the search of Danneels home and office was unrelated to the Vangheluwe case.

"This is a new case that came to us recently," he said.

Vatican officials said that for the time being there would be no comment.

The sex abuse scandal has engulfed the church in Europe - and beyond - for months, with reports of abuse of in seminars, schools and other church-run institutions. Reports that priests have abused children or bishops have covered up for them have outraged the faithful.

The scandal has touched on Pope Benedict XVI's German homeland.

In his most recent remarks earlier this month, Benedict begged forgiveness from victims and promised at a Mass to "do everything possible" to protect children.

The comments came during a Mass celebrated by 15,000 priests at St. Peter's Square marking the Vatican's Year of the Priest - a year marred by revelations of hundreds of new cases of clerical abuse in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, as well as cover-ups by bishops and evidence of long-standing Vatican inaction.

The June 11 remarks also marked the first time Benedict had spoken of the crisis from St. Peter's Basilica, the center of the church.