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Philadelphia archdiocese suspends priests

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia archdiocese suspended 21 Roman Catholic priests yesterday, clergy who were named as child molestation suspects in a scathing grand jury report released last month.

The priests have been removed from ministry while their cases are reviewed, Cardinal Justin Rigali said. Their names were not being released, an archdiocese spokesman said.

"These have been difficult weeks since the release of the grand jury report," Rigali said in a statement. "Difficult most of all for victims of sexual abuse but also for all Catholics and for everyone in our community."

The two-year grand jury investigation resulted in charges against two priests, a former priest and a Catholic schoolteacher who are accused of raping young boys. And in an unprecedented move in the United States, a former high-ranking church official was accused of transferring problem priests to new parishes without a warning about prior abuse complaints.

The grand jury named 37 priests who remained in active ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse. In addition to the 21 placed on leave, three others named by the grand jury were suspended a week after the report's release in February. Of five others who would have been suspended, one was already on leave, two are "incapacitated and have not been in active ministry," and two no longer are priests in the archdiocese. -- AP

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