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Retired Australian bishop charged with child sexual abuse

A retired Catholic bishop has appeared in court in remote Western Australia on charges of sexual offences against children, including two counts of rape.

Christopher Saunders was brought before Broome Magistrates Court, according a court spokesperson, who declined to say whether he had entered a plea.

Western Australia Police said that child abuse squad detectives charged a 74-year-old Broome man, whom it did not name, with 19 offences.

The man was refused bail, according to police.

Mr Saunders, emeritus bishop of Broome, a diocese in northwest Australia, had previously denied wrongdoing.

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said the church would continue to cooperate with police.

“Allegations against the former Bishop of Broome, Christopher Saunders, are very serious and deeply distressing, especially for those making those allegations,” Mr Costelloe said in a statement.

Mr Saunders was ordained a priest in 1976, becoming a bishop in 1995, according to the Catholic News Agency.

He stood down in 2020 after the allegations emerged. A police investigation at the time found insufficient evidence to charge him.

Pope Francis accepted his resignation in 2021 and the Vatican launched its own investigation in 2022.

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