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Belgium's Roman Catholic hierarchy has been rocked by the latest development in the Church's child-sex scandal that saw police raiding Catholic institutions in a search for incriminating documents.
"It was worthy of the Da Vinci Code," said the head of the church in Belgium, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, who complained about the way bishops were held for several hours during the raid.
The Vatican weighed into the debate saying it was "astonished" and "dismayed" at the investigation at the Church headquarters and the home of a Cardinal, as well as searches in the tombs of archbishops in Mechelen Cathedral — the center of the religion in Belgium.
Police said the where acting on a tip off that documents from a church investigation into the scale of child abuse by priests had been hidden in the cathedral to keep them from the judicial authorities. Computers and mobile phones belonging to some of they country's top churchmen were seized and a number of documents taken from a church commission set up to investigate abuse allegations.
Rumors of a cover-up of widespread child sex abuse by priests have intensified since the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April after admitting that he'd abused a young male relative for years.
Although it remains the largest religion in Belgium, the Catholic Church has seen its influence decline in recent years. Studies have suggested that regular attendance at weekly mass has declined from 42 percent to just 7 percent over the past 40 years.
The Christian Democratic party has lost its dominant political role in the Dutch-speaking north of the country, while its equivalent in the French-speaking south, changed its name to the Democratic and Humanist Center, dropping any reference to its Catholic and Christian roots.