The Bishop of Porto, Portugal's second-largest city, has temporarily suspended three priests suspected of pedophilia, the Diocese of Porto announced Thursday.
In a brief statement, the church said the priests were all named in a recently finalized investigation of sexual abuse in Portugal's Catholic Church.
Last Friday, the Diocese of Porto said the investigators sent them a list of 12 Porto clergy who were all suspected abusers. Of the 12, four had died and one had left the district, according to a statement.
The diocese said it would investigate the seven remaining priests further. If it found 'any reliable evidence,' the Catholic organization said it would not hesitate to 'preventively suspend' any clergy involved.
Just three of the seven have been suspended.
The statement added that there was no evidence of the crimes in the church's archives and no complaints were filed.
However, an independent investigation into the church's crimes found that at least 4,815 children have been sexually abused by Catholic clergy in Portugal since 1950.
While Catholic bishops had previously only admitted to a handful of sexual abuse cases in Portugal, the local Catholic Church has been supportive of the inquiry and apologized for the abuse.
'This diocese reaffirms what it has always said: it is on the victims' side, suffers with them, and is doing everything possible to create new, respectful and safe attitudes and mentalities so that young people and their families can fully trust their pastors,' said the Porto Diocese in last week's statement.
The independent inquiry has also sent 25 cases of pedophilia to Portuguese prosecutors - the only ones that could still be prosecuted under the statute of limitations.
However, the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) criticized the investigation for not going far enough.
'The panel is to send to bishops by the end of the month a list of alleged abusers who are still active in the church. This is a good step in theory, but church officials clearly do the bare minimum when it comes to protecting children,' said SNAP in a statement, calling for church officials to 'prominently publish the name, photo, place of residence, and work history of abusive clergy, regardless of whether they are dead or alive.'
While the diocese of Porto has decided to suspend three priests, the identities of those priests remain concealed.
The Lisbon Diocese, on the other hand, received a list of 24 names of suspected child abusers - the most in the country. But those active priests and clergy continue carrying out their work with impunity, just like all but the three suspended priests in Porto.
Source: Anadolu Agency