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LA cardinal apologises to abuse victims after settlement

world Updated: Jul 16, 2007 05:04 IST

The head of the Roman Catholic church in Los Angeles apologized Sunday for the sex-abuse scandal that will see his diocese pay out a record 660 million dollars to more than 500 victims.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has been accused by victims of attempting to cover up pedophilia cases, told reporters that the cases should never have happened.

"Once again I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who's been abused by priests, by deacons, by religious men and women or by lay people," Mahony said. "It should not have happened and should not ever happen again."

Mahony said he had sought to reach a settlement after hearing harrowing testimony from abuse victims.

"I said to them, your life I wish were a like a VHS tape, where we could put that in, press rewind, delete these years of misery and difficulty, and start over when you were young and just before this happened," he said.

Mahony said he was haunted by the fact that victims of abuse had their innocence stolen.

"It is the one part of the settlement process I find so frustrating, because the one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot," he said.

Mahony said the settlement would be paid for by selling off some of the church's estimated four billion dollars in real estate holdings, as well money from investment funds and borrowing.

Lawyers involved in the case confirmed the settlement had been reached late Saturday, heading off a potentially explosive court case on Monday.

The 660 million dollar deal, which covers cases dating as far back as the 1940s, will be the largest settlement by any Roman Catholic archdiocese to sex abuse victims in the United States.

Abuse cases across the country have cost Roman Catholic churches around 2.1 billion dollars to date. Several priests have been convicted and several dioceses have gone bankrupt paying civil penalties.