More than 200,000 children have been sexually abused by members of the French clergy, according to a report published Tuesday.

In a 2,500-page report by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, the researchers said that between 2,900 and 3,200 abusers who worked in the French Catholic Church have abused more an estimated 216,000 minors between 1950 and 2020.

Child Sexual Abuse Victims of the Catholic Church

The report noted that the Catholic Church was the location where sex violence cases were at their most frequent even compared to situations within family and circles of friends, CNN reported

The report also condemned the French clergy of its repeated attempts to silence sexual abuse victims, noting that it failed to file a report or discipline any of the clergy members involved in the incidents.

During a news conference in Paris, the president of the Indepdent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, Jean-Marc Sauve said that Church authorities failed to acknowledge the slightest suggestions and did not implement strict protocols that were necessary to combat the crimes, The New York Times reported.

The report also said the number of victims rose to an estimated 330,000 when counting victims of people who were not clergy but were associated with the Church, including Catholic schools and youth programs.

Oliver Savignac, head of victims association Parler et Revivre (Speak Out and Live Again), was one of the victims who spoke out. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said he was abused by the director of a Catholical vacation camp at age 13.

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"I perceived this priest as someone who was good, a caring person who would not harm me. But it was when I found myself on that bed half-naked and he was touching me that I realized something was wrong....And we keep this, it's like a growing cyst. It's like gangrene inside the victim's body and the victim's psyche." Savignac said, Fox News reported.

Investigations of the Cases

Authorities later  found the priest guilty of child sexual abuse and he was sentenced to two years in prison in 2018. The head of the French bishops' conference, Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, asked forgiveness from the victims, roughly 80% of whom were boys. Pope Francis also expressed gratitude towards victims who came forward with their experience with sexual abuse.

On Tuesday, the pope released a statement where he expressed his thoughts and sympathies to the victims and urged the Church of France to be aware of the terrible reality. He said that he hoped the involved church members would embark on a "path of redemption," Reuters reported.

The damning report came after members of the French Catholic Bishops conference and several French Catholic clergy groups commissioned the investigation in 2018. The members, who acted independently of the Church, were given access to the archives of religious institutions.

The report also came to light after a series of high-profile scandals rocked the church in France. To date, the report has the most extensive account of the scope of sexual abuse incidents involving a clergy in the country.

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