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Belgian former bishop who sexually abused nephews removed from priesthood, years after confessing

A Belgian former bishop who admitted sexually abusing two of his nephews has been removed from the priesthood by Pope Frances, more than a decade after the case first came to light.

The Vatican said Thursday that Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, 87, had been “dismissed from the clerical state” after “serious new elements” in the case emerged.

Bishop Vangheluwe resigned as bishop of Bruges in 2010 after admitting he had abused one nephew over the course of a number of years.

He later admitted to abusing a second nephew but was not prosecuted due to Belgium’s statute of limitations.

The country’s bishops have repeatedly called for the Vatican to expel Bishop Vangheluwe from the priesthood with the case becoming a symbol of the abuse scandals in the country.

In a statement following the dismissal, the Belgian bishops’ conference said they had always considered it “shameful” that Vangheluwe had been allowed to remain a priest and a bishop, even though he had been under restrictions.

He will continue to live in a monastery.

Vangheluwe’s case was threatening to overshadow a planned papal visit by Francis to Belgium with the prime minister of the country, Alexander de Croo, calling on the Vatican to remove Vangheluwe’s bishop title.

Following the decision to remove Vangheluwe from the priesthood, the prime minister wrote on X: “This is the right decision.”

The Belgian church has come under intense pressure recently with a parliamentary commission looking into sexual abuse in the church and a documentary into abuse sparking national outrage.

Pope Francis says he is planning to visit Belgium at some point in 2024.

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