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Prime Minister Jean Castex will be received at the Vatican on Monday, in a stormy context for the Church of France, faced with shattering revelations on sexual abuse and a controversy around the “secrecy of confession”. A long-planned visit.
Jean Castex will be received, Monday, October 18, in Rome, by Pope Francis, fifteen days after the publication of the Sauvé report in France. The result of two and a half years of work by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase), it estimated the number of pedophiles identified in the Catholic Church in France at 3,000 since 1950, causing a shock wave in France and a controversy around the secrecy of confession.
Jean Castex’s visit was planned for a long time to celebrate the centenary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See. The Prime Minister, received in private audience by the sovereign pontiff, should, according to his entourage, evoke several subjects on which France and the Vatican converge (access to vaccines for all, climate change, Lebanon …).
But it will be impossible to conceal the magnitude of the figures in the report: 216,000 minors attacked by a priest or a religious in France since the 1950s, 330,000 including lay aggressors in connection with the institutions of the Church.
Especially since since his election in 2013, the Pope has made the fight against sexual abuse, “instrument of Satan”, one of the priorities of his pontificate. François has already expressed his “shame” and his “pain” following the Sauvé report and Jean Castex will assure that he will follow “very closely the decisions that the bishops will take in the coming weeks”, according to his advisers. .
Debate around the secret of confession
But the debate was also tied around the secrecy of the confession, that the president of the Conference of the bishops of France (CEF) Emmanuel de Moulins-Beaufort had judged “superior to the laws of the Republic”, before back pedaling and of evoke a “clumsy formulation”.
On this point, Jean Castex, who will meet during the morning in Rome several dignitaries of the Holy See as well as representatives of the French ecclesiastical community, should limit the debate to national borders by recalling that “the interlocutor of the government, c ‘is the Church of France “.
“The stone is above all in the garden of the bishops” of France, who will have to “say how to articulate the protection of children and the secrecy of confession which, in French law, is a professional secrecy, neither more nor less”, insist the services of the Prime Minister.
One way not to rush the Vatican, which itself is walking on eggshells: on the one hand, a crime report form was made available to any clergyman in July 2020; on the other, the Holy See confirmed the primacy of the secrecy of confession, the confessor being simply encouraged to “try to convince the penitent” to alert people in a position to take legal action.
In the afternoon, Jean Castex, accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, will be expected at Palazzo Chigi by the head of government and former boss of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi. The opportunity to further embody the warming of relations between France and Italy, marked by episodes of tension, especially on the migration issue when the far-right leader Matteo Salvini was Minister of the Interior.