A Belgian court has found a Swiss priest guilty of sexually abusing a young boy at a boarding school in Brussels belonging to the Society of Saint Pius X, a traditionalist Catholic group.
On Wednesday, the Brussels Court of Appeal sentenced the priest to five years in prison, of which two years were suspended.
The priest was found guilty of sexually abusing a boy aged under 16 who he was supervising at the Society of Saint Pius X boarding school in Brussels between 2010 and 2011. The victim and his parents had filed a civil suit in court.
A lower court had earlier cleared the priest of these charges, claiming that there was insufficient evidence. The Brussels Criminal Court also acquitted him of similar sexual abuse allegations against two other boys at the school, who did not file a civil action before the court of appeal.
On Wednesday, the priest did not appear before the appeal court, as his lawyer said he had fallen ill the previous evening and had to be hospitalized.
The priest had already been accused of paedophilia in Switzerland. He was cleared by an ecclesiastical court in 2006, but was forbidden to have contact with children for a period of ten years.
In a statement on Wednesdayexternal link, the Society of Saint Pius X said it deeply regretted that a member of its group had committed such 'scandalous' acts and asked for forgiveness from the victim and his family. It said the priest would be subject to an internal 'procedure' in line with religious law and that vigilance would be stepped up to prevent similar acts in the future.