Jean-Pierre Ricard: France opens investigation into Catholic cardinal who admitted to sexually abusing 14-year-old girl


French authorities have launched an investigation into one of the 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 read out by the president of the 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 he had asked for forgiveness from the victim, who he said he abused 35 years ago, and her family. He added that he would go on retreat to pray.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office in Marseille announced that 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 the investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, which has been beset by numerous reports detailing decades of sexual abuse, systemic failures and cover-ups across several countries.

Ricard was appointed cardinal in 2006 and is a former head of the French bishops’ conference. He retired as Archbishop of Bordeaux in 2019.

He is also a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees investigations into sexual abuse cases.

According to Moulins-Beaufort, Ricard was among 11 former or current French bishops accused of abuse-related cases.

The French civil authorities and the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith have been informed of the revelations, he added.

Ricard said in his written statement that he intended to cooperate with civil and Catholic Church investigations into his case.

A Vatican spokesman had no comment when reached by CNN.

A landmark report in 2021 found that members of the Catholic clergy in France sexually abused an estimated 216,000 minors over the past seven decades, and that the church prioritized the protection of the institution over survivors who were encouraged to remain silent.

Pope Francis said in September that he would undertake to rid the church of sexual abuse, telling CNN partner CNN Portugal that he was “responsible for it not happening anymore.”

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