OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian Roman Catholic bishop facing child pornography charges surrendered to police on Thursday, a day after police issued a nationwide arrest warrant for him.
Bishop Raymond Lahey, from the Roman Catholic diocese of Antigonish in the eastern province of Nova Scotia, has been charged with possession and importation of child pornography.
The case is rocking the church, particularly because earlier this year Lahey oversaw the settlement of long-standing sex abuse allegations against several priests.
Pope Benedict has asked top church officials in Canada to do what they can to alleviate the shock, said a senior church figure who described the case as devastating and a tragedy.
Lahey, 69, said nothing to a waiting crowd of reporters as he walked into Ottawa’s police headquarters with his lawyer.
“He’s in custody now. He’s in our cell block,” police spokesman Alain Boucher later told journalists, saying Lahey would be fingerprinted and then face a bail hearing on Thursday or Friday.
Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini, the most senior Roman Catholic in Nova Scotia, said the charges had caused sadness, pain and anxiety.
“I have been asked by Pope Benedict through his intermediary in Canada ... to bring whatever help and care I can to everyone concerned in this time of need and this time of difficulty,” he told a news conference in the town of Sydney.
Earlier this year, Lahey oversaw a C$13 million ($12 million) settlement with people who said they had been sexually abused by priests in the Antigonish diocese in a case dating back to 1950.
”I am well aware that everyone is in shock ... I am concerned with all who are trying to find any meaning in this devastation,“ Mancini said. ”We are standing in a place of brokenness and vulnerability right now.
A court approved the settlement last month and Mancini said Lahey’s arrest would not affect the payouts.
Lahey was returning to Canada from the United States on September 15 when border agents at the Ottawa airport checked his laptop computer and seized it for investigation.
He was charged last Friday and resigned shortly afterward, citing personal reasons. At the time he made no mention of the charges.
Writing by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway