“Following the elements that have emerged in recent days and following the statement of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, in order to complete the examination of what happened, it was decided to open an investigatio previa (preliminary investigation) “, told reporters the director of the press service of the Holy See, Matteo Bruni.

“We are currently evaluating the person best suited to lead it, with the necessary autonomy, impartiality and experience, also taking into account the fact that the French judicial authorities have opened a file on this case” , he added.

On Tuesday, the Marseille prosecutor’s office announced that it had opened a preliminary investigation after the confessions of the ex-archbishop of Bordeaux, retired since 2019 in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (south-eastern France), which provoked a new earthquake in the Church.

“35 years ago, when I was parish priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a 14-year-old girl. My behavior necessarily caused serious and lasting consequences in this person,” the cardinal wrote today. 78 years old, without giving more details on the facts of which he incriminates himself while he was stationed in Marseille.

These statements came the day after the surprise announcement by the French episcopate that 11 bishops or former bishops had had to deal with civil justice or the justice of the Church for sexual “abuse” or their “non-denunciation”.

Bishop Ricard, who has the right to vote in the event of a conclave, is a member of the powerful dicastery – equivalent to a ministry in the government of the Holy See – for the doctrine of the faith, responsible in particular for cases of sexual violence against minors.

A canonical process is generally only opened once the file has been closed by the judicial authorities in the country concerned. At the end of the civil trial, the Church may request the documentation from the judicial authorities in order to integrate it into its own evaluation.