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Legionaries of Christ express 'deep sorrow' for scandal

Group in special meetings at Vatican over sexual abuse history

06 February, 17:23
Legionaries of Christ express 'deep sorrow' for scandal (ANSA) - Rome, February 6 - A scandal-rocked Catholic movement close to Pope John Paul II, which was founded by a child sex abuser, expressed "deep sorrow" Thursday for the abuse inflicted on its victims.

The Legionaries of Christ were put under Vatican oversight in 2010 after its founder, Mexican priest Marcial Maciel, was removed from leadership for inflicting decades of sexual abuse on boys and fathering several children, two of whom he also abused. Church probes have since confirmed nine other priests in the organization sexually abused children and at least 10 more are still under investigation.

The scandal tainted the pontificate of John Paul, a friend of the charismatic founder who publicly endorsed the Legionaries, sparking accusations of ignoring public reports as early as the 1990s of abuse that began in the 1980s.

The group has been in reform meetings at the Vatican, its first since it was put under the Vatican's oversight.

"We want to express our deep sorrow for the abuse of seminarians, minors, immoral acts committed on men and women, the arbitrary use of its authority and property, for the enormous consumption of drugs," the general chapter of the Legionaries of Christ said in a statement with reference to its founder, who died in 2008.

The group said it rejects his immorality and expressed "deep sadness" at the initial refusal to accept the testimony of Maciel's victims. "We ask forgiveness for these deficiencies that have increased the pain and bewilderment of many," they said, adding their thanks that former pope Benedict XVI saved the organization.

Maciel was stripped of his leadership role and ordered to a life of prayer and penitence by John Paul's successor Benedict XVI in 2006.

Known to encourage recruitment of priests and new followers, the Legionaries count over 950 priests and 70,000 lay members worldwide, primarily in Latin America, the home of Argentine Pope Francis.