Brussels: At least 70 people from Belgium have claimed they were sexually abused by the clergy and would now sue the Vatican and the Belgian church for failing to protect them from paedophile priests, their lawyer said.

Walter Van Steenbrugge said the legal action would be initiated in May.

Sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church have been reported in several European countries - including Belgium, Germany and Ireland. Pope Benedict XVI issued an apology in March 2010.

The Belgian church was embroiled in a major sex abuse scandal last year when Bruges bishop Roger Vangheluwe was forced to resign after he admitted he molested one of his nephews for 13 years.

Vangheluwe, now 75, also admitted having sexually abused another nephew.

(Agencies)