Thousands of paedophiles in French Catholic Church since 1950: commission

The head of an independent commission says thousands of paedophiles have operated inside the French Catholic Church since 1950.

Catholic priests. Picture: AFP.

PARIS - Thousands of paedophiles have operated inside the French Catholic Church since 1950, the head of an independent commission investigating the scandal told AFP, days ahead of the release of its report.

The commission's research had uncovered between 2,900 and 3,200 paedophile priests or other members of the church, said Jean-Marc Sauve, adding that it was "a minimum estimate".

The commission's report is due to be released on Tuesday after two and a half years of research based on church, court, and police archives, as well as interviews with witnesses.

The report, which Sauve said runs to 2,500 pages, will attempt to quantify both the number of offenders and the number of victims.

It will also investigate "the mechanisms, notably institutional and cultural ones" within the Church which allowed paedophiles to remain and will offer 45 proposals.

The independent commission was set up in 2018 by the French Catholic Church in response to several scandals that shook the Church in France and worldwide.

Its formation also came after Pope Francis passed a landmark measure obliging those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors.

Made up of 22 legal professionals, doctors, historians, sociologists and theologians, its brief was to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by clerics dating back to the 1950s.

When it began its work, it called for witness statements and set up a telephone hotline, then reported receiving thousands of messages in the months that followed.

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