MADRID, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Spain’s Catholic Church on Tuesday apologised to victims of sexual abuse by priests, but questioned the accuracy of a new survey that suggested such abuse was far more widespread nationwide than previous investigations have found.

The survey, released on Friday in a report by Spain’s human rights ombudsman, found that 0.6% of a sample of just over 8,000 respondents said they had been abused, rising to 1.1% when including lay people such as teachers at Catholic schools.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference, following an extraordinary meeting, expressed its “pain for the damage caused by some Church members with the sex abuses and repeated their request to the victims for forgiveness”.

The Church has faced sexual abuse scandals in several countries including the United States, Ireland and France over past decades. But the issue only surfaced for public debate in Spain, where nearly 60% of people describe themselves as Catholic, following a landmark media investigation in 2021.

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