French prosecutors in Marseille said on Tuesday they had opened an inquiry into child abuse by a French cardinal after he confessed publicly to “reprehensible” acts against a 14-year-old girl in the 1980s.
Jean-Pierre Ricard, a retired bishop who was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, was named among 11 senior clergymen who face sexual abuse allegations in an announcement by the French Catholic church on Monday.
In a message read out at a conference of bishops, Ricard said: “35 years ago, when I was a priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way towards a girl of 14. There is no doubt that my behaviour caused serious and long-lasting consequences for that person.”
The most serious sexual offences in France such as rape usually have a statute of limitations of 30 years, but the period to bring charges can be extended if the victim was a minor at the time of the offence.
The maximum period for charges for sexual abuse of a minor is usually 20 years from the date at which the victim turns 18.