French ex-bishop to stand trial for not reporting paedophile priest

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The former bishop of the French city of Orleans, Andre Fort, was ordered Thursday to stand trial for failing to report a paedophile priest in his diocese.

Fort, who was bishop of the northern city between 2002 and his retirement in 2010, was charged last June over allegations that he turned a blind eye to child abuse by priest Pierre de Castelet.

Fort had moved de Castelet into roles where he did not have contact with children, but did not inform the police about accusations by a man who said he and others had been abused by the priest as a child.

"My client thought this young man did not want his accusations to be made public, but that he just wanted to make sure Pierre de Castelet had no more contact with children," Fort's lawyer Benoit de Gaullier told AFP.

He added that Fort "acknowledges that he is to face trial, and he will explain himself".

De Castelet is accused of abuse dating back to 1993 when he served as chaplain at a camp for young Christians and was charged in 2012. He also worked as a chaplain for the European Scouts movement.

His accuser, Olivier Savignac, said he had reported the priest to Fort personally in 2010, saying he believed de Castelet could have abused around 10 other children.

It was Fort's successor Jacques Blaquart who reported de Castelet to authorities after Savignac contacted him in 2011.

Fort is not the first French bishop to be charged with failing to report paedophilia.

In 2001, Bayeux bishop Pierre Pican was given a three-month suspended jail sentence for a similar offence.

The most senior French Catholic cleric to be caught up in scandal is Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is due to go on trial in January 2019 for allegedly covering up for a priest accused of abusing boy scouts in the Lyon area in the 1980s.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by a long series of child sex abuse scandals and Pope Francis has said it must not happen again on his watch.


© 2018 AFP

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