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CATHOLIC CHURCH

At least 3,000 paedophiles active in French church since 1950: report

Thousands of paedophiles have operated inside the French Catholic Church since 1950, the head of an independent commission investigating the scandal told AFP, days ahead of the release of its report.

French archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin leads his last mass,on June 28, 2020. Barbarin was released on appeal on January 30 for his silence on the sexual abuse of a priest, and resigned quickly afterwards.
French archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin leads his last mass,on June 28, 2020. Barbarin was released on appeal on January 30 for his silence on the sexual abuse of a priest, and resigned quickly afterwards. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

The commission’s research had uncovered between 2,900 and 3,200 paedophile priests or other members of the church, said Jean-Marc Sauve, adding that it was “a minimum estimate”.

The commission’s report is due to be released on Tuesday after two and a half years of research based on church, court and police archives, as well as interviews with witnesses.

The report, which Sauve said runs to 2,500 pages, will attempt to quantify both the number of offenders and the number of victims.

It will also look into “the mechanisms, notably institutional and cultural ones” within the Church which allowed paedophiles to remain, and will offer 45 proposals.

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The independent commission was set up in 2018 by the French Catholic Church in response to a number of scandals that shook the Church in France and worldwide.

Its formation also came after Pope Francis passed a landmark measure obliging those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors.

Made up of 22 legal professionals, doctors, historians, sociologists and theologians, its brief was to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by clerics dating back to the 1950s.

When it began its work it called for witness statements and set up a telephone hotline, then reported receiving thousands of messages in the months that followed.

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CATHOLIC CHURCH

French cardinal to face trial over ‘cover up’ of priest’s sex abuse

A French Cardinal will go on trial in April accused of covering up the sexual abuse of children by a paedophile priest in his Lyon diocese over 25 years ago, a court ruled Tuesday.

French cardinal to face trial over 'cover up' of priest's sex abuse
Photo: AFP

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the most senior French Catholic leader to be tried for allegedly failing to report a predator priest, will go on trial on April 4 next year, a court in Lyon said.

The Cardinal, who has been the archbishop of Lyon since 2002, and six other defendants are suspected of having covered up a priest's child abuse in the 1980s by failing to inform the authorities. 

Barbarin has always denied the allegations but last year he came under immense pressure when the sex abuse scandal first emerged.

The then Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged Barbarin to “take responsibility” for the scandal.

In August last year the affair appeared to have been buried when a French prosecutor declined to put Barbarin on trial for the alleged cover up.

But the priest's victims refused to allow the allegations to drop and launched their own proceedings directly with the court.

Barbarin has said he learned in 2007 that the priest, Bernard Preynat, had been accused of sexually abusing Scouts in the past.

Preynat was only charged in January after a victim who was allegedly abused in the 1980s realised in 2015 that the priest was still in service.

Several other victims have also come forward.

Barbarin has said that when he learned of the priest's past he immediately called a meeting with him and when he asked Preynat if he had committed further abuses since 1991 the priest swore he had not.

“You can reproach me for having believed him… but covering up means knowing and letting it happen,” Barbarin said, adding he had “absolutely never” done that.

Prosecutors say Preynat — who was removed from service in 2015 — has admitted the charges.

When complaints were first made against him in the 1980s, he was merely suspended for a few months.

The victims have filed complaints against several senior diocesan officials, including Barbarin, accusing them of failing to report the priest or remove him from duty despite being aware of his past.

Barbarin has admitted to “errors in the management and nomination of certain priests”.

After the scandal erupted, he in June relieved four priests of their functions over sexual abuse allegations.

The scandal was the worst to hit the Catholic Church in France since 2001, when a bishop was given a three-month suspended jail sentence for failing to inform authorities about a paedophile priest.