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25 French bishops accused of covering up hundreds of sex abuse cases

media Lyon's Cardinal Philippe Barbarin AFP

Twenty-five French bishops covered up sexual abuse of by 32 Catholic priests for years, an investigative website claims. The abuse, which continued after 2000 when the church claimed to have tackled the problem, affected 339 victims, it says.

The Mediapartwebsite names all 25 bishops, five of whom were still in office in January, and accuses Lyon's Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of having known about abuse by five priests without notifying police.

Several cases of covering up sexual abuse against Barbarin were dismissed last June.

Among the other bishops named by Mediapart are Besançon Archbishop Jean-Luc-Bouilleret, Bayonne Bishop Marc Aillet, Yves Le Saux of Le Mans and Mgr Bernard Fellay of the Society of Saint Pius X, a traditionalist fraternity that is going through a reconciliation process with the Vatican.

Of the 339 victims, 288 were minors, the site says.

In a joint probe with the Cash Investigation TV programme, Mediapart claims that 90 priests have been moved because of accusations of paedophilia.

Following a major scandal involving Bishop Pierre Pican in 2000, the French Catholic bishops' conference ordered its members to report cases of abuse of minors to the legal authorities.

But half of the cases reported by Mediapart are alleged to have been reported since then.

The church refused to take part in the Cash Investigation programme, which is to be broadcast on Tuesday, complaining that interviews were conducted in a spirit of accusation rather than explanation.

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