Police raid Roman Catholic Church

Police officers accompanied by officials from the public prosecutors' offices raided the headquarters of the bishoprics of Antwerp, Hasselt and Mechelen on Monday. The operation forms part of the investigation into the role that the Roman Catholic Church played in paedophile abuse.

In all three places documents have been seized. Examining magistrate Wim De Troy, the federal public prosecutor and a number of police officers called at the offices of the bishopric of Antwerp on Monday morning. The bishopric's spokesman Olivier Lins: "They asked for a number of dossiers and we handed them over."

The spokesman refused to be drawn on the exact nature of the dossiers. The dossiers are believed to detail cases of contemporary sexual abuse, but also older cases. The bishop's officials requested copies of the documents to allow them to carry on working out compensation and this request was granted.

Detectives also raided premises in Hasselt in Limburg and arrived at the bishopric of Mechelen headed by the Belgian Primate, Archbishop Léonard, in the course of Monday afternoon.

It remains unclear what exactly triggered the raids. Earlier seizures at the bishopric of Mechelen were declared illegal by the courts. Dossiers seized at that time cannot be used in prosecutions.