SAN FRANCISCO -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland has agreed to pay $56 million to settle lawsuits filed by 56 alleged victims of priest sexual abuse.
The agreement, announced Friday, is a series of individual settlements with each remaining victim who alleged abuse by Oakland priests, according to plaintiffs' attorneys. Negotiations took more than four months and were overseen by an Alameda County Superior Court judge.
The diocese did not say how much each alleged victim would receive.
''It is my heartfelt hope that reaching this resolution will help victim-survivors move forward ever more securely along the path of healing," said Bishop Allen Vigneron of the Diocese of Oakland.
''I take this occasion to reiterate once more my commitment . . . to ensure the safety of children and young people in our church community. I renew my apology to victim-survivors, to their families, and to the whole community for the great harm that has been done by those priests who have sexually abused minors."
Larry Drivon, a Stockton, Calif., lawyer who represents half the alleged victims, called the settlement ''adequate and fair."
The diocese will pay $25 million of the settlement; the rest will come from insurers. The diocese's portion of the payment will be funded through a loan and sale of diocesan assets.
The settlement means at least 15 trials set to begin in upcoming months will be canceled, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.
In April, a jury awarded two brothers and former altar boys nearly $2 million after they alleged they were molested by a priest in the diocese more than two decades ago. Diocesan lawyers did not dispute that the alleged abuse by the Rev. Robert Ponciroli occurred. Ponciroli has been removed from the ministry.
About 160 civil suits were filed in Northern California when the state temporarily lifted time limits for filing sex abuse claims in 2002. More than 750 civil lawsuits were filed against Roman Catholic dioceses statewide.
In early June, the Archdiocese of San Francisco settled 15 lawsuits involving allegations of sexual abuse for $21.2 million. A month later, the archdiocese agreed to pay more than $16 million to settle a dozen more cases. Also in June, the Diocese of Sacramento agreed to pay $35 million to 33 reported victims.
The Oakland settlement is the second-highest in the state. In December, the Diocese of Orange, Calif., agreed to pay $100 million to 87 reported victims.
Nationwide, sex abuse claims against Roman Catholic priests have cost the church more than $1 billion.