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Pope Benedict XVI blesses faithful during the Angelus prayer on Sunday from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. ((Pier Paolo Cito/Associated Press))

The Pope has called the raids carried out by Belgian police investigating priestly sex abuse "deplorable" and asserted the autonomy of the Catholic Church to investigate abuse alongside civil law enforcement authorities.

Pope Benedict XVI issued a message Sunday to the head of the Belgian bishops' conference, Msgr. Andre-Joseph Leonard. In it, he expressed solidarity with all Belgian bishops for the "surprising and deplorable way" in which the raids were carried out Thursday.

Benedict said justice must take its course. But he also repeated that such crimes are handled by both civil and canon law "respecting their reciprocal specificity and autonomy."

The raids targeted a retired archbishop and the graves of two prelates.