- One of France’s highest-ranking church officials said he abused a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago.
- Jean-Pierre Ricard is now withdrawing from his religious duties.
- A report found that 330,000 children in France were victims of church sex abuse between 1950 and 2020.
Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, one of the highest-ranking church officials in France, has admitted that he abused a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago, Archbishop of Reims Eric de Moulins-Beaufort said at the Bishops’ Conference of France on Monday, per AP.
The admission came in a written statement from Ricard, which Moulins-Beaufort read to those in attendance.
“Thirty-five years ago, when I was a priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a young girl aged 14,” Ricard, now 78, said in the statement. “My behavior has inevitably caused serious and lasting consequences for this person.”
Ricard said that he asked the victim and her family for forgiveness and that he was going on a retreat to pray, the Catholic News Service reported, citing the written statement.
“This is a difficult process. But what comes first is the suffering experienced by the victims and the recognition of the acts committed,” Ricard said, per the Catholic News Service.
Ricard was ordained as a priest in October 1968 and held different posts in the Catholic Church before he was appointed as Archbishop of Bordeaux in December 2001, per the Vatican website.
He was proclaimed a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 and served as the president of the Bishops’ Conference of France from 2001 to 2007.
Being a cardinal is a position that’s usually held for life, and as a collective, they form the College of Cardinals — which is primarily responsible for electing a new pope.
Ricard is among the 11 former and serving French bishops who have been accused of sexual abuse, Moulins-Beaufort said at the conference, adding that all of them will be prosecuted or face church disciplinary procedures, per AFP.
A year ago, an independent commission headed by Jean-Marc Sauvé, the president of the French Independent Committee on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, found that an estimated 330,000 children in France were sexually abused by various members of the Catholic Church between 1950 and 2020.
The commission urged the Church to “establish a procedure for the recognition of abuse” and “provide compensation for the harm suffered,” per the 2021 report.
The Independent National Authority for Recognition and Reparation — the institution responsible for compensation decisions — announced at a news conference in September that the French Catholic Church has started paying out compensation to victims, per AP.