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German church offers up to $6,900 to abuse victims

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 1:41 PM

BERLIN -- Germany's Roman Catholic church on Wednesday said it planned to offer up to euro5,000 ($6,900) to victims of abuse by clergy or church officials while they were minors.

The German Bishops Conference said the church will also cover possible expenses for therapy, and for victims whose cases are considered "particularly grave" could receive additional financial support.

The fund was welcomed by German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who also met Wednesday with representatives of the church and other institutions involved in allegations of abuse as part of the government's so-called round table on the issue.

"It is the responsibility of everyone who is sitting at the table to do everything possible to help," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

She said the government was focusing on setting up a fund that would pay for counseling and therapy for victims whose cases extend beyond Germany's 20-year statute of limitations.

The church also said its fund was focused on victims whose cases extend beyond the statute, as they often date back decades.

Victims can apply for the payments from the church starting March 10, but it was not immediately clear how the dioceses and orders involved would decide on the victims' applications.

Germany, the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI, was one of several countries hit last year by a wave of allegations of abuse by clerics.

The church says it also will set up a euro500,000 fund to finance projects aimed at preventing abuse.

© 2011 The Associated Press