New York: Twenty-one Roman Catholic priests in Philadelphia have been suspended after being linked to an investigation into widespread child molestation, church authorities said late Tuesday.
The suspensions followed a Grand Jury report that identified 37 current or former priests.
"I wish to express again my sorrow for the sexual abuse of minors committed by any members of the Church, especially clergy," Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, said in a statement.
"I am truly sorry for the harm done to the victims of sexual abuse, as well as to the members of our community who suffer as a result of this great evil and crime."
The archdiocese of Philadelphia said that in addition to the 21 priests put on administrative leave, another three had been disciplined after the report first came out in February.
Five others would have been suspended, but one already was on leave, two were not in active ministry, and two were serving elsewhere, but their superiors had been notified.
Another eight priests in the list of 37 were not being suspended. "The initial independent examination of these cases found no further investigation is warranted," the archdiocese said.
The cases of those suspended involve allegations "of sexual abuse of a minor to boundary issues with minors."
Cardinal Rigali said "the present investigation of sexual abuse began as a result of reports from the Archdiocese to the District Attorney`s Office. The 2011 Grand Jury Report, however, presented us with serious concerns that demand a decisive response."
Pedophilia scandals have rocked the Catholic church across Europe, the United States and Brazil.