French cardinal confesses to sexually abusing teenage girl

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By Euronews  with AFP
FILE: Archbishop of Bordeaux Jean-Pierre Ricard (L) celebrates the Passion of Christ on Good Friday in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on April 14, 2017.
FILE: Archbishop of Bordeaux Jean-Pierre Ricard (L) celebrates the Passion of Christ on Good Friday in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on April 14, 2017.   -   Copyright  MEHDI FEDOUACH / AFP

A senior French Catholic clergyman has admitted sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl when he was a parish priest in the 1980s.

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who was the Bishop of Coutances, Montpellier and Bordeaux from 2001-2019, confessed in a statement which was read Monday at the French Bishops' Conference in Lourdes. 

"Thirty-five years ago, when I was a parish priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a 14-year-old girl. My behaviour necessarily caused serious and lasting consequences for this person," the cardinal wrote.

"I have decided to place myself at the disposal of justice both in society and in the Church," he added, saying he had asked the victim for "forgiveness".

The confession by 78-year-old Cardinal Ricard, who retired in October 2019, came as a "shock" to the 120 bishops who have been meeting in the French city since last Thursday, according to the bishop leading the conference. 

Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort also revealed a list of other Catholic Church clergy in France who were implicated in sex abuse cases. 

Those include the case of Bishop Michel Santier who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2021 for "spiritual abuse leading to voyeurism on two adult men;" and two other retired bishops who "are now being investigated by our country's justice system," said Monseigneur de Moulins-Beaufort.

In total ten former French bishops have been implicated recently in scandals, including eight under investigation for abuse, and two for not reporting allegations. 

Olivier Savignac, from the victims' support group Parler et revivre, said he was "shaken by the revelations". 

"There are many hidden things. How many more will come out? The Church only reacts once it is up against the wall," he told AFP news agency. 

The latest admissions come just over a year after the publication ofa shocking report by the Sauvé Commission on the extent of sex abuse in the French Church since 1950.