Father Benjamin Sellier. / Credit: Archdiocese of Cambrai, France
ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 17, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).
Father Benjamin Sellier of the Archdiocese of Cambrai in France died by suicide in the early hours of July 11 after learning that he was being investigated for the alleged sexual abuse of a young woman.
According to local media France Bleu Nord, the 47-year-old priest was hit by a freight train at about 3 a.m. local time in the northern region near the border with Belgium.
The French media reported that a letter was found next to Sellier’s body in which he acknowledges the abuse but minimizes the facts.
“Our diocese is going through a tragic ordeal with the death of Father Benjamin Sellier. His death shocks us and plunges us into sorrow,” said the archbishop of Cambrai, Vincent Dollmann, in a July 13 statement.
“The investigation into the circumstances of the death confirms that he ended his life,” he said.
“In addition,” the prelate explained, “he was the subject of legal proceedings following a complaint of sexual assault filed by a young girl and her family.” Due to the ongoing investigation and “the presumption of innocence to which Father Benjamin Sellier was entitled like any other person,” the proceedings were not made public.
Following the complaint, “prudential measures had been taken in collaboration with the judicial authorities, limiting his ministry with young people,” the archbishop noted.
“As bishop,” he wrote, “I am thinking of this young complainant and her family, of the parishioners and priests of the diocese, and of the bereaved family of Father Benjamin. I accompany the incomprehension and confusion that we can and will undergo.”
Dollmann also offered his compassion and availability, as well as those of his vicars general. “Let’s take it to heart to respect this time of mourning. In this trial that we are going through together, let us remain united in prayer,” he encouraged.
“Let us care for one another. May God come to our aid!” the French prelate concluded.
Sellier was originally from the town of Landrecies. He came from a Catholic family and worked as director general of services for the Landrecies town hall.
He was ordained a priest in 2015 and came to the town of Avesnes-sur-Helpe in 2020, where he carried out his ministry.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.