French authorities have opened an investigation into one of highest-ranking members of France’s Catholic church, who admitted to sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl when he was a parish priest, more than three decades ago.
French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, 78, made the stunning admission in a written statement which was read by the President of Conference of Bishops of France, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, during a press conference in Lourdes on Monday.
The cardinal wrote in the statement that his behavior had been “reprehensible” and had “led to serious and lasting consequences for this person.”
Ricard said that he had asked for forgiveness from the victim, whom he said he abused 35 years ago, and her family. He added that he would be going on retreat to pray.
On Tuesday, Marseille prosecutor’s office said it has opened a preliminary investigation into the cardinal.
The cardinal’s admission has “shocked” Catholic bishops in France, Moulins-Beaufort said. It has also renewed scrutiny into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, which has been shrouded with multiple reports detailing decades of sexual abuse, systemic failures and cover-ups across multiple countries.