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Pope Criticizes Belgian Police Raids

Pope Benedict has criticized what he called the "surprising and deplorable" way that Belgian police raided church offices last week as part of a child sex abuse probe.

The pope sent a message of support Sunday to the head of the Belgian bishops' conference, expressing solidarity with the Belgian clerics in what Pope Benedict called "this sad moment."

The June 24 raids included the home and offices of a retired archbishop, as well as the gravesite of at least one other former prelate. Church officials say authorities detained Belgium's nine current bishops for nine hours, seizing their cell phones as the raids unfolded.

Belgian authorities say the bishops were treated normally during the raids.

The Belgian church was rocked earlier this year, when the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, admitted to sexually abusing boys before and after becoming a bishop.

He was the first European prelate to step down in a pedophile scandal that has implicated numerous church officials, either for abusing children or for failing to take appropriate action against alleged perpetrators.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.