French Catholic bishops agreed Monday to use part of the value of the Church's vast real estate holdings to compensate thousands of victims of child sex abuse at the hands of clergy.
Church officials have been under growing pressure to indemnify victims after a landmark inquiry confirmed extensive sexual abuse of minors by priests dating from the 1950s to 2020.
An independent commission will be set up to evaluate the claims, "and we are going to provide the means to accomplish this mission... of individual indemnities for the victims", said Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, head of the Bishops' Conference of France (CEF).
“All of the resolutions that we have voted on constitute a vast program of renewal of our governance practices at the level of the dioceses and at the level of the Church in France,” the archbishop of Reims said in an address broadcast live on French television.
Moulins-Beaufort made the announcement on the final day of the bishops’ plenary assembly in Lourdes, southwestern France, which took place 2nd - 8th November.
The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that during the week-long meeting, the bishops "heard from multiple abuse victims and discussed the implications of an independent report estimating that hundreds of thousands of children were abused in the Catholic Church in France over the past 70 years."
According to the agency, the bishops knelt "in an act of penance" in Lourdes, a pilgrimage center in the south of France, on Saturday. An image of a weeping child was unveiled and an abuse survivor shared a testimony during the event.
Moulins-Beaufort said in his speech that the bishops had recognized the Church’s “institutional responsibility” and had decided to implement reforms based on what they had learned from the 2,500-page report by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE).