Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, one of the highest officials of the Catholic Church in France, has announced that he will withdraw from religious services after admitting that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago.
According to the Associated Press, the confession comes after a report released last year that revealed a large number of child sexual abuse cases in France’s Catholic Church.
78-year-old Rickard said in a statement that ’35 years ago I was a priest and I behaved reprehensibly with a 14-year-old girl. My behavior had bad and far-reaching consequences on his life.
Ricard was the archbishop of Bordeaux in western France at the time of his retirement in 2019 and has since continued to conduct religious services at his home.
In 1980 he was a priest in the Archdiocese Church of Marseille.
Ricard’s resignation was announced on Monday by Eric de Mullins, president of the French Bishops’ Conference.
Mullins said a total of 11 bishops, including Rickard, have been accused of sexually assaulting children.
Referring to Record’s statement, he said that he later contacted the victim and apologized, but did not say when he did so.
Mullins said that through this statement he also apologized to all those whose feelings he had hurt.
However, who these people were, did not give further details about them.
When France’s Catholic Church began offering reparations to victims of childhood abuse, Ricard broke his silence.
“Can no longer remain silent about my position and am prepared to appear before the country’s justice system and church authorities.”
A report on child abuse cases was released by an independent commission last year.
It was reported that an estimated 330,000 children were sexually abused by priests and other staff members in France over a period of 70 years.
The report was based on data from France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research, which contained information on child abuse.
The report stated that church authorities continued to try to “deliberately cover up” the events and urged them to respect French laws.