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Limburg Catholic diocese suspends employee after child porn probe

The former employee of the Limburg diocese has been on the authorities’ radar for weeks after suspicions were raised about the man's interest in child pornography.

A member of Limburg's Catholic diocese in western Germany has been placed under investigation on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

A Frankfurt prosecutor's office spokesman told reporters that the suspect's home and office had been raided by police on February 1 and a data storage device was seized as evidence.

Officials confirmed on Thursday that the employee had been suspended from his position at the church following the accusation. Both the prosecutor's office and diocese spokesman, Steven Schnelle, refused to reveal the suspect's identity or his position within the diocese; however, they confirmed that he was not a priest and had no direct contact with children or adolescents during his role at the church. 

According to the Frankfurter Neuen Presse newspaper, authorities began investigating the case weeks ago after suspicions were initially raised, culminating in the search of the man's apartment.

Innocent until proven guilty

Schnell said the diocese of Limburg will continue to cooperate with police, but emphasized that while investigations were ongoing, the employee would be regarded as innocent until proven guilty. 

However, he also told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) that the protection and prevention of further harm towards any victims was the church's top priority, as well as offering counseling and support to other staff members. 

Bätzig described the allegations and its connection with the church as "disturbing” and hoped authorities would quickly determine whether or not charges will need to be pressed.

Georg Bätzing (picture-alliance/dpa/H. Tittel)

Bishop of Limburg George Bätzig says he is troubled by the allegations and wants the investigation completed quickly.

When asked whether the accusations would damage the already fragile reputation of the diocese of Limburg, Bätzig told the German Press Agency that the church was more concerned about resolving the issue as soon as possible and appropriately punishing the individual, if deemed necessary.

Bätzig said he had already informed the German Bishop's Conference Abuse Commissioner, the Bishop of Trier Stephan Ackerman, about the incident. Ackerman is currently on a church mission in Burkina Faso.

Checkered past

The diocese of Limburg grabbed headlines in 2013 after it was revealed that Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, otherwise known as the "bling bishop”, had spent millions of euros in church money on lavish improvements to his private residence.

Tebartz-van Elst was ultimately suspended and removed from his post with the diocese by Pope Francis, but managed to avoid trial and compensation payments after a decision from the Vatican.

His Limburg luxury mansion cost the Catholic Church 31.3 million euros ($34.2 million).

im/gb (epd, dpa, fnp)

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