Portuguese justice has opened ten investigations into suspicions of sexual assault in the Church following testimonies from alleged victims collected by an independent commission, we learned from the public prosecutor.
The 17 testimonies given to the public prosecutor by this commission led to "the opening of 10 investigations" of which "three were closed", either because the facts are "prescribed" or by "lack of evidence", a explained Thursday evening to AFP a spokesperson for the public prosecutor's office without specifying dates for the opening of the investigations.
The independent commission, which began its work in January, is responsible for investigating sexual assaults in the Portuguese Church. It has already collected 352 testimonies from alleged victims, according to a latest report in early July.
In reality “the number of victims is higher”, because the testimonies often refer to several victims, specified Thursday evening the child psychiatrist Pedro Stretch, who heads this commission.
"Many victims wish to remain anonymous" or prefer "to wait for the request for an apology from the Church", indicated Mr. Strecht after a meeting with the President of Parliament Augusto Santos Silva, to whom he presented the work of the commission.
Dom Manuel Clemente, the highest prelate of the Portuguese Church, said last April that the Church was ready to “recognize the mistakes of the past” and to “ask forgiveness” from victims of sexual violence.
The Patriarchate of Lisbon reaffirmed on Wednesday its “total availability” to cooperate with the authorities after the revelations in the media of a new case where the Church would have chosen to keep in office a priest suspected of sexual assault.
The work of the Portuguese commission, which should be completed at the end of the year, will give rise to a report which will then be submitted to the Portuguese episcopal conference.
This commission, made up of six experts, had been created on the initiative of the Portuguese Church, in a country with a strong Catholic tradition, in order to shed light on the issue of sexual violence against “minors and vulnerable adults”.
This group is inspired by the work of the independent commission chaired by Jean-Marc Sauvé, which had revealed the extent of pedocrime in the French Church.