Illustration of the French Catholic Church: Xia Qing / GT
French Catholic bishops kicked off their annual conference on Tuesday, which is expected to spill over into a shock report in October that detailed the massive child abuse of 216,000 minors over 70 years.
The 120 bishops from all over France will devote nearly half of their meeting to “the fight against violence and sexual assault directed against minors”, according to the published agenda.
Some victims were invited to join the meeting, but many refused, denouncing the decision to make the sexual abuse scandal one of many topics – rather than the only item on the agenda.
The rally, which began with a period of silence to honor the victims, takes place in the southern city of Lourdes – considered by the Catholic Church to be a holy place and one of the main pilgrimage destinations in the world.
Ahead of the conference, the bishops said they would consider the issue of the church’s institutional accountability for mass abuse, as well as a mechanism to compensate victims.
On October 5, an independent commission released findings that detailed about 3,000 predators among the clergy who sexually assaulted 216,000 minors from 1950 to 2020, a “massive phenomenon” that had been covered for decades by a “veil of silence. “.
The nearly 2,500-page report found that the “vast majority” of the victims were pre-teen boys from various social backgrounds.
Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) which co-commissioned the report, expressed his “shame and horror” at the findings, while Pope Francis said that he felt “a great sadness”.
Jean-Luc Souveton, a priest who was sexually abused, said he would attend both a plenary session and a special session devoted to abuse, hoping to make the bishops understand why more victims had not turned up .