05/08/2013 06:04 BST

Fort Augustus Abbey Abuse: Bishop Apologises For Pupils' Sexual Abuse At Hands Of Monks

One of Scotland's most senior Catholics has apologised to pupils amid claims of sexual and physical abuse by monks at a former boarding school in the Highlands.

Alleged victims who attended the Catholic Fort Augustus Abbey school told a BBC Scotland investigation that they were molested and beaten by monks over a period of three decades from the 1950s.

It has also been claimed that abuse was carried out at Carlekemp, its feeder school in East Lothian. Both schools are now closed.

Fort Augustus Abbey in Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire, Scotland

Five men said on the Sins Of Our Fathers documentary, screened last Monday, that they were raped or sexually abused by Father Aidan Duggan, an Australian monk who taught at Carlekemp and Fort Augustus between 1953 and 1974.

Fr Duggan died in 2004 but some abuse claims relate to men who are still alive. Police are investigating the allegations.

Hugh Gilbert, the Bishop of Aberdeen, said mass at Fort Augustus church today and address the issue in his homily.

He said: "It is a most bitter, shaming and distressing thing that in this former Abbey School a small number of baptised, consecrated and ordained Christian men physically or sexually abused those in their care.

"I know that Abbot Richard Yeo has offered an apology to those who have suffered such abuse and I join him in that. We are anxious that there be a thorough police investigation into all this. And, that all that can be done should be done for the victims. All of us must surely pray for those who have suffered.

"The Catholic Church in Scotland has been addressing this issue increasingly effectively in recent years. We want to work with all public bodies who care for the young and vulnerable adults.

"We wish to share our experience and share best practice so that lessons can be learned and children can always be fully protected."

A church spokesman said the Bishop did not see the BBC programme as he only returned from a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro this week, but wanted to travel to Fort Augustus to personally speak to parishioners and "express his sorrow".

Bishop Gibert told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper: ''We are truly distressed to have learned that these things have happened and I want to articulate that for the parishioners there.

"Some of the older ones will remember that community and many of them will have positive memories of it and the work of the monks, but sadly there appear to have been these terrible breaches of right conduct.''

The school was run by Catholic Benedictine monks and Dom Richard Yeo, abbot president of the English Benedictine Congregation apologised for ''any abuse that may have been committed at Fort Augustus'' in the BBC programme, but Bishop Gilbert, 61, is the first senior Scottish Catholic to speak out.

He has been Bishop of Aberdeen for more than two years and the diocese covers much of the north of Scotland, including Fort Augustus.

Scotland on Sunday also reported that the Church is planning to publish annual audits dealing with abuse allegations against Scottish clergy.