The bishops just returned from the ad limina visit in Rome, where they discussed the abuse issue at length with the pope and other Vatican officials.
In the bishops’ statement, they acknowledged multiple reports of abuse and the resignation of a bishop who admitted his involvement in abuse.
They said these abuses have caused “shock waves in the Church of Belgium” and “seriously damaged confidence of the faithful in their pastors.”
The letter continued saying the Church hierarchy had not realized the full impact of sexual abuse on children, and its silence had put the Church’s reputation before concern for the victims’ dignity.
The bishops thanked victims for their courage in coming forward and asked them for pardon for the “aggression and for the inadequate treatment of it.”
Belgian bishops say they will reexamine how they managed the Church so that abuse of clerical power would not be repeated. They also promise tougher guidelines for clergy working with children.