HONG KONG, China -- Three Catholic priests in Hong Kong were found guilty in internal Church hearings of sexually abusing children in their care, but none of the cases was handed to the police, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

The paper quoted Cardinal John Baptist Wu Cheng-chung, the head of the church in the territory, as saying the three offenders were required to do penances, undergo a spiritual renewal and receive counselling and psychiatric therapy.

The cardinal would not be specific as to when the three cases had taken place or who the offenders were, saying only that they had occurred over the past 27 years.

The cases represent the latest in a growing list of sexual abuse reports around the world which have shaken the Roman Catholic Church to its foundations.

Families of the victims received apologies and were offered financial help from the church, the paper said.
t also quoted police as saying there were no laws in the territory requiring people to report sex crimes.

Hong Kong, which has a population of nearly seven million people, has around 250,000 Catholics and about 300 Catholic priests.

"The diocesan authorities cannot and will not tolerate paedophile practices ... least of all among those in the sacred ministry, in whom the faithful in particular and the public in general place a special trust," Wu said
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Hong Kong church authorities had been following the general regulations of the Catholic Church in dealing with cases of sexual abuse, he said.

But he added, "given the current worldwide situation ... we are considering what regulations to lay down for our own diocese ..." taking into account Church regulations and civil legislation.

In January, the Vatican issued new rules for Roman Catholic churches around the world to deal with paedophile priests, saying they should stand trial in secret ecclesiastical courts.

The pope summoned senior U.S. clergy to the Vatican for an unprecedented meeting last week to address the growing sex abuse scandal in the United States. He told them he would no longer tolerate paedophile priests.

But in their final statement, U.S. church leaders angered abuse victims by failing to take a clear, uncompromising position against any form of paedophile abuse.

Recent reports of abuses in Ireland in the 1980s led to the resignation of one of Ireland's most high-profile Roman Catholic bishops, Brendan Comiskey, for his handling of the cases.

In the pope's homeland of Poland last month, Archbishop Juliusz Paetz quit following accusations, which he denied, of sexually molesting young priests.