Australia has Accused former Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders of Rape

Australian bishop Christopher Saunders faces charges of rape and multiple historical sex offences, including some involving children.

The 74-year-old was taken into custody in Broome on Wednesday, following separate investigations initiated by Western Australian authorities and the Vatican.

Mr Saunders has stated his intention to plead not guilty to all charges filed against him.

He is among the most experienced Catholic clerics to be accused of this type of offence.

Mr Saunders faces serious charges including two counts of rape, 14 counts of unlawful and indecent assault, and three counts of indecently dealing with a child as a person in authority.

The reported incidents took place in the isolated Western Australian towns of Broome, Kununurra, and the Aboriginal community of Kalumburu from 2008 to 2014.

He was granted bail on Thursday and instructed to stay at his residence until his next court appearance in June, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr Saunders is the second most senior Catholic official in the country to face charges of child sex offences, following Cardinal George Pell’s case.

On Thursday, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference released a statement pledging to work with the authorities and expressing concern over the serious nature of the charges against Mr. Saunders.

“It is important and essential that all such claims are fully examined,” stated Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe.

Having been ordained in 1976, Mr. Saunders has dedicated most of his career to serving in the remote Kimberley region in the nation’s north-west corner. In 1996, he was appointed Bishop of Broome.

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The diocese covers approximately 770,000 sq km (297,000 sq miles), which is similar in size to Turkey, and includes some of the most isolated regions of the country.

Mr. Saunders is widely recognised for his social activities, advocacy efforts, and leading young men on outdoor adventures, making him a prominent figure in the community. He is so famous that there is even a beer named after him.

The allegations were first made public in 2020, but the initial police inquiry that ensued was concluded without any charges being filed.

In 2020, he chose to step down as the Bishop of Broome, but continues to serve as an emeritus bishop.

Following a historic inquiry initiated by the Pope, law enforcement launched a fresh investigation.

There have been only a few Vos Estis Lux Mundi investigations conducted globally. Translating to “You Are the Light of the World” in Latin, Vos Estis investigations are initiated by the pontiff and were established in 2019 to address sexual abuse and hold bishops and other high-ranking officials in the Catholic Church accountable.

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