Former Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit under investigation for sexual assault

© Stéphane de Sakutin, AFP

French authorities last month opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations that the former archbishop of Paris had committed "sexual assault on a vulnerable person", prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The probe was opened based on a report filed by the diocese of Paris, they said.

Michel Aupetit offered to resign in late 2021 following media reports of an intimate relationship with a woman in 2012 before he took on the post, allegations he has categorically denied. Pope Francis accepted the resignation.

French broadcaster BFMTV reported that the relationship was with a vulnerable person under judicial protection.

A source close to the case told AFP the probe was looking into "email exchanges" between Aupetit and the woman, whose consent would have to be confirmed in view of her mental health.

In a statement on Tuesday evening the diocese confirmed it had filed the report, and said it was "not in a position to verify whether the facts in question are proven or whether they constitute an offence".

The clergyman's lawyer Jean Reinhart refused to comment.

"We have absolutely no knowledge of a complaint, so we cannot comment on the subject," he said.

A diocese spokeswoman in 2021 said Aupetit "had ambiguous behaviour with a person he was very close to", adding that it was "not a loving relationship", nor sexual.

But she said the offer to step down was "not a confession of guilt".

Aupetit was archbishop during the April 2019 fire that ravaged the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, regularly appearing on television to express anguish over the disaster and rally funds for the rebuilding effort.


Read more on FRANCE 24 English

Read also:
Thousands pay respects as former pope Benedict XVI lies in state at Vatican
Pope Francis condemns greed, hunger for power in Christmas Eve homily
Vatican opens preliminary abuse investigation into French cardinal