A French report has revealed a staggering number of child victims of clerical sexual abuse in 70 years since 1950.

The revelation is leading French President Emmanuel Macron to call for truth and compensation.

On the sidelines of a European meeting in Slovenia on Thursday, Macron said “behind the figures and terrible situations that are described, there are broken lives.”

“There is a need for truth and compensation,’’ he added.

Pope Francis at the weekly general audience expressed shame at the Church’s “too long failure’’.

“This is a moment of shame,’’ said the Pope.

He urged French bishops and religious superiors to continue to make every effort so that similar tragedies will not be repeated, according to Vatican News.

Based on a general population survey, a report released on Tuesday by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church found that from 1950 to 2020, a total of 216,000 children in France suffered sexual abuse by priests, deacons, monks or nuns.

That figure rose to 330,000 when lay people connected to the Church, such as the staff of Catholic schools and organisers of scouts, were included.

Most victims were “pre-adolescent boys from all social backgrounds,’’ the report said.

“But the French Church had long covered up the abuses across the country for self-protection.

“Canon law is entirely inadequate concerning fair trial standards and human rights in a matter as sensitive as the sexual abuse of children.’’

The number of the perpetrators over the 70 years is estimated to be between 2,900 and 3,200, reflecting research showing that “a sexual predator can effectively assault a great number of victims,’’ the report said.

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Sexual abuse in the French Church peaked in the period from 1950 to 1970 after which it appeared to decline.

It again saw an apparent resurgence in the early 1990s while the Church leadership, for a long time, was not unaware but turned a blind eye when it should have taken action, according to the report.

“Faced with this scourge, for a very long time, the Catholic Church’s immediate reaction was to protect itself as an institution and it has shown complete, even cruel, indifference to those having suffered abuse,’’ Jean-Marc Sauve, president of the commission, said in the report.

From the 1990s, the Church started to take on board the existence of the victims, but it was only from 2010 that it began to report cases to the judicial system, impose sanctions and realise that the issue should not be dealt with internally.

“The Church must establish a procedure for the recognition of abuse, even in time-barred cases, and provide compensation for the harm suffered,’’ it said.

Established in 2018 and consisting of 21 voluntary members excluding Church members or victims, the commission investigated by distributing questionnaires, interviewing victims and church members and analysing data from archives such as those of the Ministry of Justice. (Xinhua/NAN)