Spain investigating 68 allegations of child abuse by Catholic clergy, staff

A woman wearing a face mask prays inside a church after a judge barred Catalan authorities from enforcing a stricter lockdown to residents in the city of Lleida, to control the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Lleida, Spain, July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

MADRID, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Spanish prosecutors are investigating 68 cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by Catholic church staff, the public prosecutor's office said on Wednesday in the first release of official data about such cases.

Allegations of child abuse by Catholic clergy and of possible cover-ups by the church are only surfacing now in Spain, years after similar scandals rocked the Church in other countries such as the United States, Ireland and France.

The prosecutor's office released a spreadsheet with the criminal cases launched in 17 Spanish regions into alleged sexual abuse of minors in congregations, schools and other religious institutions, but did not provide any details.

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Suspected abuse of children has been in the spotlight in the country since El Pais newspaper reported two months ago it had found 1,200 cases reported between 1943 and 2018.

In January, the Spanish Bishops' Conference said it would set up commissions at diocese level to hear complaints from abuse victims. Last week, the ruling Socialist party proposed creating an independent commission headed by the country's ombudsman.

The Spanish Church has a special page on its website on how to handle abuse cases, where it says when a complaint is made to the Church all evidence gathered would be sent directly to the Vatican. It also encourages victims to come forward and file a case with the regional prosecutor.

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Reporting by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Alex Richardson

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