Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard / YouTube / KTOTV (screenshot)

Rome Newsroom, Nov 7, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

A French cardinal said on Monday that he had abused a 14-year-old girl several decades ago and was making himself available to authorities.

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard said in a statement: “Thirty-five years ago, when I was a parish priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a young girl aged 14. My behavior has inevitably led to grave and lasting consequences for this person.”

Ricard added he was withdrawing from his functions and had spoken to the victim about the abuse.

“I renew here my request for forgiveness and also ask her entire family for forgiveness,” he said.

The statement was read at a press conference by the president of the French bishops’ conference, Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims.

The archbishop said that charges had been filed with the attorney general and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in response to Cardinal Ricard’s confession. 

The 78-year-old Ricard was bishop of Bordeaux, in the southwest of France, from 2001 to 2019, Reuters reported.

The current archbishop of Bordeaux, Jean-Paul James, said: “I express my deepest sympathy to the victim concerned. And I share the pain of all those, especially in the Diocese of Bordeaux, who are hurt by these revelations.”

According to Moulins-Beaufort, nine French bishops as well as two retired bishops are currently the subject of a civil or Church investigation.

Pope Francis received French President Emmanuel Macron on Oct. 24 at the Vatican. 

Before the meeting, a group of victims of sexual abuse urged Macron to directly raise the issue of whether the Church in France was too slow in reacting to a landmark investigation of sexual abuse released one year ago.

According to an independent report published in late 2021, hundreds of thousands of children were abused in the Catholic Church in France between 1950 and 2020.

The French bishops are currently meeting in Lourdes for their fall plenary session.