Commission: Church officials in Portugal abused over 4,800 minors in 70 years

Commission: Church officials in Portugal abused over 4,800 minors in 70 years

Commission: Church officials in Portugal abused over 4,800 minors in 70 years

Church, church, cathedral – illustrative photo.

Lisbon – At least 4,815 minors have been sexually abused by Catholic Church officials in Portugal since 1950, an independent commission of inquiry said today in Lisbon. She interviewed over 500 people during the year and reached this conclusion based on their testimony, AFP reported. The commission also announced that the vast majority of cases are already time-barred, but the commission sent 25 cases to the prosecutor's office.

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According to its head, child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, the commission, made up of six experts, has collected the testimony of more than five hundred people since last January. According to him, on the basis of these statements, he came to the conclusion that the number of those abused was at least 4,815, Strecht said today according to AFP in Lisbon at a press conference.

The commission's final report also shows that the persons who abused minors were from three-quarters of the priests. In the remaining cases, they are other officials or employees of church institutions. The abuse allegedly took place in seminars, schools and sports facilities throughout Portugal, especially in Lisbon, Porto and the city of Braga.

Among the cases that are not statute-barred is the case of the now forty-three-year-old Alexandra, who, according to her testimony, was abused by a priest in Portugal when she was preparing to become a nun at the age of seventeen. “I kept quiet about it for many years, but it became more and more difficult to cope with such a secret,” the woman, who now works as a kitchen helper, told AFP. She added that it was very difficult to talk about this topic in Catholic Portugal. However, Alexandra had previously told church authorities about the abuse, which, according to AFP, sent a complaint to the Vatican, which remained unanswered. Only after many years has she now received psychological help from an independent commission.

The creation of an independent commission to investigate cases of sexual abuse of minors in the church was announced by the Portuguese bishops' conference in November 2021, and since last January people have been able to make reports to it by phone , by email or via a secure website. The commission also examined cases brought to the attention of the media or various organizations.

According to AFP, the president of the Portuguese bishops' conference should comment on the commission's conclusions today, and at the beginning of March the Portuguese bishops should meet and discuss this investigative report. in 1999 Ireland. Later, similar commissions were established in Belgium, Germany, Australia and France, among others. In some countries, non-governmental organizations have set up websites where victims can find help.

Pope Francis addressed cases of sexual abuse in the church, which some of its representatives committed in a number of countries and covered up or inconsistently investigated for years. he built vigorously soon after the beginning of his pontificate in 2013. In 2014, he set up a commission of inquiry and that same year received a group of victims in the Vatican as the first head of the Catholic Church. In 2019, he convened the first summit of Catholic church leaders in the Vatican on the protection of minors in the church and subsequently issued several decrees to prevent such cases from recurring.