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A former Australian bishop was arrested on allegations of sexual abuse of young people (symbolic image)

Photo: Gerald Herbert / AP

As part of the abuse investigation against former Australian Bishop Christopher Saunders, which has been ongoing for years, police have arrested the clergyman.

The 74-year-old was taken away from his home in the state of Western Australia on Wednesday, the Australian edition of the Guardian reported, citing the police.

Saunders was charged with a variety of counts, including "two counts of sexual penetration without consent, 14 counts of unlawful and indecent assault and three counts of indecent exposure to a child 16 to 18 years of age as a person in authority," authorities said .

No charges upon prior trial

The police had already investigated Saunders in 2018 and 2020, who at the time was still Bishop of Broome, a diocese in the outback in northwest Australia.

However, due to a lack of evidence, the public prosecutor did not press charges at the time.

The Vatican then launched its own internal investigation.

Last September, the Holy See sent a 200-page report to Australian police saying Saunders was likely guilty of four sexual assaults against Indigenous youth and may have courted another 687 youth and men.

The allegations relate to the year 2008 and the period thereafter.

After his ordination, Saunders initially worked in mission stations in outback regions since the 1970s.

In 1995 he was appointed Bishop of Broome by Pope John Paul II.

In the wake of the allegations of abuse, he initially suspended this office in 2020.

In August 2021, Pope Francis accepted his resignation.

The priest always denied the accusations.

The Australian Bishops' Conference promised to work with the authorities.

The allegations were “very serious and deeply disturbing,” it said in a statement.

An application by the clergyman to be released on bail was rejected, police said.

Saunders was scheduled to appear in court in Broome on Thursday.