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Finnish church admits child abuse cases

07 April 2011 - 21:51 By Sapa-AFP

Finland’s conservative Laestadian religious movement said Thursday that between 70 and 100 cases of paedophilia had occurred in its congregation since the 1980s.

“Some of these cases have been reported to the police, but some happened too long ago” to be tried in court, Central Committee of Conservative Laestadian Congregations (SRK) spokesman Tuomas Haenninen told AFP.

The findings were part of an internal report conducted by the committee, which also concluded that church officials had “mishandled” the cases.

“We have to admit that we didn’t know how to do the right thing,” Haenninen said.

He said the child molestation cases — most of them within families who were members of the church and not involving church officials — emerged through extensive interviews.

“We didn’t use enough expert help, we didn’t communicate enough, and it could give the impression that we downplayed these cases or covered them up,” Haenninen said.

Conservative Laestadianism is a revivalist sect of Lutheranism which encourages its members to be wary of outside influences and abstain from using make-up, watching television, birth control, or working on Sundays, among other things.

Haenninen said that while its official membership is around 35,000 in Finland, attendance at revival meetings is between 70,000 to 80,000.