The Vatican will open an investigation into French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who earlier this week admitted to sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl decades ago. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said on Friday a preliminary investigation would begin once the most suitable person with “the necessary autonomy, impartiality and experience” was found to carry it out. .
He said the Vatican took into account that French judicial authorities had opened a file on the case. The Vatican investigation would only begin in earnest once the investigation by French civil authorities was complete, so that its findings could be used for informational purposes.
Earlier this week, Ricard, 78, admitted the abuse, which he says took place 35 years ago when he was a parish priest. Ricard, who served as a bishop in the southwest region of Bordeaux from 2001 to 2019 and was made a cardinal in 2006 by former Pope Benedict XVI, asked for forgiveness and said he would step down and be available for civil and ecclesiastical authorities.
Eleven bishops in France are under investigation for sexual abuse. A
An independent investigation in France last year found that clergy had sexually abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years.
After the Vatican’s investigation of Ricard, Pope Francis could discipline him either by condemning him to a life of prayer and penance in isolation, or go so far as to defrock him. Defrocation is an expulsion from the Roman Catholic priesthood.
The last cardinal to be defrocked was Theodore McCarrick of the United States in 2019 after an internal investigation found him guilty of child and adult sexual abuse and abuse of power.
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