Germany sets up talks to tackle child sex abuse

Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:09pm GMT

By Christopher Lawton

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government agreed on Wednesday to set up round table talks to tackle a wave of child sexual abuse cases, including numerous allegations of abuse in the Roman Catholic Church that have shocked the country.

The talks will also investigate alleged abuse cases in Protestant and secular schools and be led by four women -- three current government ministers and a former minister.

More than 250 abuse cases have been alleged in recent weeks, most of them at Catholic schools and dating from several decades ago. The scandals brought calls for an official inquiry into the Catholic Church, as Ireland had last year, but Berlin opted for round table talks among all groups concerned with the issue.

"This is an existential problem for the Church," Family Minister Kristina Schroeder told journalists while presenting the panel. "What's amazing is that, in all these cases, it was known that there was sexual abuse. There were rumours, whispers and jokes going around in the schools where it happened."

The talks, which open on April 23, will examine past cases and explore ways to prevent abuse and support victims. While they may expose criminal activity, most cases cannot be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired.

The Catholic and Protestant churches, child protection associations, counselling services and other social groups have been invited to the talks.


Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Germany's top Catholic bishop, welcomed the talks and said: "The Catholic Church will do everything to bring about a complete resolution of sexual abuse cases that occurred in its own ranks in the past."   Continued...

<p>German Family Minister Kristina Schroeder speaks to journalists after a news conference about the government's plans in reaction to abuse cases in educational institutions in Berlin March 24, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>
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