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CRIME

11 French bishops accused of sexual violence, announces church group

Eleven former or serving French bishops have been accused of sexual violence, including the former bishop of Bordeaux who has confessed to assaulting a minor 35 years ago, a senior church body announced on Monday.

11 French bishops accused of sexual violence, announces church group
Archbishop of Bordeaux Jean-Pierre Ricard (R) is one of the 11 bishops accused of sex attacks. Photo by MEHDI FEDOUACH / AFP

Jean-Pierre Ricard, a long-standing bishop of Bordeaux who was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, has admitted to a “reprehensible” act on a 14-year-old, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, told reporters.

All of the accused will face either prosecution or church disciplinary procedures, added de Moulins-Beaufort, the archbishop of north-eastern Reims.

French bishops are meeting in Lourdes in southwestern France for their autumn conference where they plan to discuss ways to improve their communication and transparency regarding historic sex crime allegations against the clergy.

The church was rocked last year by the findings of an inquiry that confirmed widespread abuse of minors by priests, deacons and lay members of the Church dating from the 1950s.

It found that 216,000 minors had been abused by clergy over the past seven decades, a number that climbed to 330,000 when claims against lay members of the Church are included, such as teachers at Catholic schools.

The commission that produced the report denounced the “systemic character” of efforts to shield clergy from prosecution, and urged the Church to pay compensation to victims.

Ricard retired as bishop of Bordeaux in 2019 but he remains a cardinal, a position usually held for life.

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CRIME

French tycoon fined €150k for harming tortoises

Corsican construction tycoon Patrick Rocca was fined €150,000 on Tuesday for harming protected tortoises on a building site even after officials told him to stop.

French tycoon fined €150k for harming tortoises

Six dead specimens of a species known as Hermann’s tortoise and another “fatally wounded” animal were found when officers from France’s biodiversity agency inspected the worksite in December 2019.

Around 3.5 hectares of the habitat just outside the Mediterranean island’s capital Ajaccio were disturbed and 2.8 hectares destroyed, the inspectors found, calling for the work to be halted.

But Rocca’s Fortimmo company – one of the largest employers on the French Mediterranean island, with around 1,000 local workers – continued construction, with more dead tortoises found a few days later.

His conviction for mutilation and unauthorised destruction of a protected animal species and their habitat follows a court ruling against Fortimmo, which had to pay a €500,000 fine, and a total of €530,000 in damages.

Rocca’s lawyer Philippe Gatti called the punishments “excessive”.

Corsica is one of the last places where Hermann’s tortoises – the only species native to France – still live in the wild.

They are protected by France and the European Union as well as internationally.

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