German priest guilty in 110 child sex abuse cases, handed 12-year sentence

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German Catholic priest was sentenced to 12 years in prison for child sexual abuse, a German court said on Friday, the latest in a string of cases that have shaken the German Catholic Church.

The Cologne district court found the man, identified in court documents as Hans Ue., guilty in a total of 110 cases between 1993 and 2018, including 23 cases of serious sexual abuse of children.

The court ordered the defendant to pay compensation to three of the nine plaintiffs for their pain and suffering. German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeiting said the youngest victim was 9 years old at the time of the crime, adding that three plaintiffs were nieces of the 70-year-old priest.

Court hearings in the case, underway since November last year, revealed additional potential victims and led to the priest's detention in January, the Cologne court said.

The lawsuit is the latest case in a long-running scandal that has shaken the richest national branch of the Catholic Church, dividing its leadership and eroding a flock that numbers more than 20 million people.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cologne welcomed the verdict and said it had sent its findings from the case and Friday's sentence to the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal office.

"We must do everything we can to ensure that such crimes, as they have happened here for decades, can no longer happen," said Markus Hofmann, the Delegate of the Apostolic Administrator.