The head of an independent inquiry into child abuse in France said on Tuesday that there may have been up to 10,000 victims since 1950.
Jean-Marc Sauve, head of a commission set up by the Catholic Church, said an earlier estimate in June last year of 3,000 victims “was indeed an understatement.”
“It is possible that the number is at least 10,000,” he added at a news conference, delivering an update on the Commission’s work.
A hotline set up in June 2019 for victims and witnesses to report abuse received 6,500 calls during the first 17 months of the operation.
“The big question for us is’ how many victims came forward? Is it 25 percent? 10 percent, 5 percent or less? “Sauve told reporters.
The Bishops’ Conference in France agreed in November 2018 to set up the Commission after major and repeated scandals against child abuse shook the Catholic Church at home and abroad.
The move sparked mixed reactions from victims’ associations, who applauded attempts to encourage survivors to speak out, but questioned the willingness and ability of French prosecutors to prosecute.
The assignment, which consists of more than 20 figures from legal, academic and medical backgrounds, was originally planned to deliver a final report by the end of 2020 but has set a new deadline for September this year.
Allegations against priests and older Catholics have led to payments and prosecutions around the world, as well as changes in Church doctrine.
In May 2019, Pope Francis approved a new milestone that forced everyone in the church who knew about sex abuse to report it to their superiors.