Police have raided the headquarters of the Belgian Catholic church following accusations of child sexual abuse involving church figures.
A spokesman for Brussels prosecutors said that the action, involving about 30 officers and investigators, followed a string of accusations 'denouncing abuse of minors committed by a certain number of Church figures.'
Armed police with dogs sealed off the palace of the Archbishop of Mechelen, just north of Brussels, 'in order to establish if these accusations are backed up or not,' said Jean-Marc Meilleur.
A spokesman for the man who led Belgium's Catholic Church for two decades until the turn of the year, Godfried Danneels, said police confiscated a computer from the archbishop's home before he was escorted to the archdiocese.
Some 450 submissions to a special independent commission set up in eastern Louvain to examine complaints received of child abuse in the past were also taken by officers in a related swoop.
Belgian media reported that documents held by the commission were supposed to have been passed over 'discreetly' to justice officials, but that clearly that had not yet been done as expected.
The Roman Catholic Church in Belgium was damaged in April when its longest-serving bishop, 73-year-old Roger Vangheluwe, resigned from his Bruges post after admitting sexually abusing a boy for years.
Paedophile priest scandals and allegations of high-level cover-ups have surged again since last year and damaged the Catholic Church across Europe and the US.
Pope Benedict XVI has condemned paedophile priests several times and has also met with abuse victims in Australia, the US and Malta.