Nobel Peace Prize-winning bishop accused of child abuse

The Vatican said Thursday it has sanctioned a Nobel Peace Prize winning-bishop accused of sexually abusing underage boys in East Timor over a 20-year period.

Bishop Carlos Belo, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, was first investigated by the Vatican in 2019, spokesman Matteo Bruni said, amid allegations he had assaulted youngsters and bought their silence.

“In the light of the accusations it received… (the Vatican) imposed certain disciplinary restrictions upon him” in September 2020, he said.

“These included limitations to his movements and to the exercise of his ministry, the prohibition of voluntary contact with minors, of interviews and contacts with” East Timor, Bruni added.

Those measures were “modified and reinforced” in 2021, and Belo formally accepted them, he said.

The statement came a day after the publication of an investigation by the Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, in which Belo was accused of assaulting teenagers from the 1980s to 2000.

“The bishop raped and sexually abused me that night”, one alleged victim, now 45, is quoted as saying. “He also left money for me. That was meant so that I would keep my mouth shut”, he said.

A highly respected figure among the East Timorese, Belo won the Nobel Prize for his role in the defense of human rights in the country during the Indonesian occupation.

He resigned from office in 2002, citing health reasons.

De Groene Amsterdammer, which mentions other victims, says it has spoken to about 20 people — including politicians and members of the local church — who were aware of allegations against Belo.

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