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Bishop, federal prosecutor to announce child protection plan year after abuse report

JOHNSTOWN -- The Altoona-Johnstown Catholic bishop, along with Western Pennsylvania's top federal prosecutor, are set to announce joint plans Monday to prevent future children from sexual abuse at area churches.

This planned announcement comes more than a year after a grand jury report shed light on decades of alleged child sex abuse at the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Acting U.S. Attorney Soo Song and Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Mark Bartchak have called a news conference Monday at 1 p.m. at the Penn Traffic Building in Johnstown.

Song and Bartchark plan "to announce a collaborative framework to protect the children of the diocese from sexual abuse," according to a media advisory.

A year ago Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a 147-report based on secret diocesan records and other evidence that detailed abuse by more than 50 priests and clergy against hundreds of children. The report criticized Bartchak's predecessors, James Hogan, who headed the diocese from 1966 to 1986 and died in 2005, and Joseph Adamec who succeeded Hogan and retired in 2005.

Tony DeGol, a spokesperson for the diocese emailed a statement to 6 News last week that said the diocese planned to announce efforts to protect children in the near future.

"The release of the Grand Jury report was heartbreaking for all Catholics, and it was especially painful for the survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with them today and always," said DeGol. "Over the past year, Bishop Bartchak has devoted much of his time to collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop a new comprehensive approach that will help to make the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown a leader in the field of youth protection. We will be announcing the product of these efforts in the near future."

The statement from the diocese came as survivors of clergy sex abuse and their community supporters rallied in protest outside of the Hollidaysburg office of the diocese last week.

The protest marked one year since the release of the 147-page grand jury report that detailed decades of abuse and knowledge from diocesan officials, including a revelation of a secret diocesan fund that authorities said showed church leaders paid victims specific amounts of money for the level of sexual abuse a victim endured.

Survivors questioned then, and have questioned for a year, if the diocese has made any significant changes since the release of the grand jury report.

Joe Mandak of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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