The decision of the police to raid tombs of two Roman Catholic Cardinals in a search for evidence of paedophile priests has not gone down well with the Vatican.
Police officers raided the St Rambouts Cathedral in the town of Mechelen, north of Brussels on Thursday, acting on allegations that a cache of files concerning a sex abuse cover up was hidden in the crypt.
A Church spokesman confirmed that police officers opened the tomb of Leo Jozef Suenens, Belgian prelate between 1961 and 1979 and the grave of Jozef-Ernest van Roey, who was his predecessor as head of the Catholic Chrurh in Belgium from 1926 until his death in 1961.
"The tombs of Cardinals Suenens and Van Roey were drilled and a camera was pushed into them apparently to see whether there were any hidden documents," Telegraph quoted Father Eric De Beukelaer, spokesman for the cathedral, as saying.
The raids took place during a meeting of bishops in the presence of the Vatican's ambassador to Belgium and the senior clerics were detained as armed police officers carried out their searches, the paper said.
The head of the Roman Catholic church in Belgium, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, has said that the police and prosecutors had shown "excessive zeal".
"The justice system does its work and it has the right to carry out searches. Nonetheless I find it slightly surprising that it went as far as rummaging around the tombs of cardinals and that all the bishops were held until evening," he added.
Investigators also raided a former cardinal's house, taking away computers and files in a search for evidence that the Catholic clergy have covered up pedophile crimes committed by priests.
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