El Salvador lawmakers seek to end impunity in church sex abuse

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador's Congress on Thursday passed legislation to remove the statute of limitations on sex crimes against minors as the country's church faces a growing number of abuse cases. The bill said that "serious crimes" of sexual abuse of children and teenagers have gone unpunished due to the statute of limitations. In November, the church fired a senior priest and former secretary of murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero after allegations that the priest had sex with a minor. Another priest has also been accused. According to victims, the crimes took place decades ago and authorities could not investigate the accused priests. Jose Escobar, archbishop of San Salvador's Catholic Church, on Sunday asked lawmakers to remove the statute of limitations and he assured that the church would not cover up cases of abuse. He also denied an accusation that he tried to bribe a woman who was sexually abused by a priest to keep her quiet. The church is planning to open offices across the country to receive and investigate reports of abuse. (Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Michael Perry)