Belgian bishop turns down cardinal role over sexual abuse criticism

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A cardinal skull cap is seen on display at the window of the Gammarelli tailor shop in Rome
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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has accepted a request by a Belgian bishop to not be made a cardinal because it might hurt the feelings of victims of sexual abuse, the Belgian bishops conference said on Thursday.

The conference said the pope's decision to name Luc Van Looy, the bishop emeritus of Ghent, a cardinal had received "many positive reactions" but also criticism that as bishop of Ghent "he did not always react vigorously enough against abuses".

"In order to prevent victims of such abuses from being hurt again as a result of his cardinalate, Bishop Van Looy asked the Pope to dispense with his acceptance of the appointment. Pope Francis agreed to his request," the statement said.

Van Looy is 80 and thus would not be eligible to enter a conclave to elect the next pope after Francis dies or resigns. The position of cardinal for him is mostly honorific.

Francis announced last month he would appoint 21 new cardinals, including 16 under the age of 80.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Deepa Babington)

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