French Catholic bishops handed prosecutors 75 complaints of suspected pedophile abuse over the past two years, with 10 clerics facing probes. The data appears in a report published as church leaders convene at Lourdes.
French bishops facing calls for an independent interdisciplinary inquiry into abuse cases within mainland and overseas dioceses, many going back decades, published their report late Tuesday, asserting that victims would be heard.
"There is still a long way to go," said Bishop Luc Crepy, the chairman of a church anti-pedophile commission, whose report says training — focused on assistance for victims — has been given to 8,000 priests, seminary recruits and lay persons since 2016.
The publication on a church anti-pedophilia website coincides with a five-day meeting of the French Bishops' Conference at Lourdes, a pilgrimage site in the French Pyrenees region.
In tabular form, the report lists 222 complaints up until 2016 and a further 211 complaints lodged up until the present — half of which occurred prior to 2000.
Of these, 75 cases had been forwarded to secular France's prosecution services since last year, the report said. Eleven presumed perpetrators had died. Investigations were proceeding against 10 priests, it added.
Trail over failure to report
The first trial began on Tuesday against Orleans retired bishop, 83-year-old Andre Fort, who, according to Germany's KNA news agency, did not appear on health grounds.
Fort, if convicted, faces up to three years in jail, for failure to report abuse.
According to French media, a victim sent Fort a letter in 2008 detailing alleged abuses of at least six boys at a summer camp in 1993 by a priest from within his diocese.
Three of former camp attendees are joint plaintiffs at the trial.
Two weeks ago, Pope Francis dismissed two bishops in Chile amid a lingering global scandal over the church's failure to account for decades of abuse and cover-up.
ipj/msh (KNA, AFP)