German Jesuits 'prepared to compensate abuse victims'

The Jesuit order in Germany is to offer compensation to victims of abuse in its schools, the first German Catholic institution to do so.

Provincial superior Stefan Kiechle told the Suddeutsche Zeitung the amount on offer had not yet been agreed but would be at least 5,000 Euro ($6,500:£4,200).

He said the compensation was intended to be "painful" for the Church.

More than 200 former students have said they were abused by priests in Jesuit schools across Germany.

The Jesuits' move comes before the annual meeting of Germany's Bishops Conference, which has not yet decided on how to handle compensation for victims.

Mr Kiechle said the move was not intended to go against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

"But we understand that we need to set an example in the interest of the victims. It is a question of honesty and our self-image," he said.

He said the amount to be offered was not yet determined but that it would be "painful for us" and would require the Jesuits to "limit our lifestyle".

"It is small and rudimentary - and a symbol of our helplessness in the face of so much suffering."

Thomas Busch, a spokesman for the order, told the Associated Press the amount could be up to 25,000 Euro.

Cover up

Victims' groups welcomed the announcement but said the amount on offer was "in no way appropriate".

"The compensation can not be guided by what seems bearable to the perpetrators, but they have to be oriented to what helps the victims," Matthias Katsch of Square Table told AP.

Allegations of abuse in Germany first emerged in January at the Jesuit-run Canisius College in Berlin, and former pupils at other schools later came forward.

The Church has acknowledged that it has failed to adequately investigate cases of abuse, and in some cases there was a cover-up with those accused being moved to a different diocese.

Many cases relate to abuse that occurred several decades ago.

The Catholic Church in Germany recently issued tougher guidelines on how to deal with reports of sexual abuse, which stressed that all allegations should be reported to prosecutors.

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