A conservative religious order favoured by Pope John Paul II is apologizing to the victims of sexual abuse by its founder.

Leaders of the Legionaries of Christ said in a statement on its Web site on Friday that at first they couldn’t believe the accusations against the late Mexican prelate Marcial Maciel, including molestation of seminarians and that he had a long relationship with a woman and fathered a daughter with her.

The order is expressing pain and regret to all who were hurt by Marciel’s actions.

Vatican investigators have completed their probe into the order, including inspections by five bishops. The Legionaries also thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his solidarity. Unrelated sex scandals in the United States and Germany are threatening to tarnish his papacy.

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