Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, one of the highest-ranking prelates of the French Catholic Church, said on Monday he abused a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago and is withdrawing from her religious duties. me.
The move comes after a report published last year revealed a large number of cases of child sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church.
“35 years ago, when I was a priest, I behaved in a reprehensible manner towards a 14-year-old young girl,” says Ricard.
“My conduct has certainly had serious and lasting consequences for this person,” he said.
Ricard, 78, served as archbishop of Bordeaux, southwestern France, until he stepped down from that post in 2019 to serve in his home diocese of Dignes-les-Bains, in the south of the country. . During the 1980s, he was a priest in the archdiocese of Marseille.
The announcement was made Monday at a press conference by the president of the French bishops’ conference, Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort.
Moulins-Beaufort said a total of 11 bishops and former bishops, including Ricard, have been targeted by allegations of sexual abuse in diverse cases brought by the judiciary or state authorities. Worship France investigation.
Ricard said he spoke to the victim and asked for her forgiveness, but did not specify when. He said he was also begging forgiveness “for all the people I’ve hurt” through his statement. He did not elaborate on that.
At times when the French Catholic Church began paying financial compensation to victims of child sexual abuse, Ricard said he decided to “no longer keep quiet about (his) situation.” ” and he is ready for the justice of the country and the church authorities. .
Extensive research published last year by an independent commission estimated that around 330,000 children had been sexually abused over 70 years by priests or other church-related figures in France. .
The tally estimated that around 216,000 people were abused by priests and other clerics, and the rest were church figures such as scout leaders and camp counselors. The estimates are based on a broader study by France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research on child sexual abuse.
The report describes a “systematic” cover-up by church officials and calls on the French Catholic Church to respect the rule of law in France.