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French bishops hold day of prayers for abuse victims

French bishops leave the Basilica of the Rosary in Lourdes after Mass on the first day of the French bishops' conference (CNS)

French bishops are holding a day of prayers and fasting for victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

The bishops, who have gathered in the city of Lourdes for their biannual plenary assembly, prayed Monday “for forgiveness for the sins committed by clergy members.”

During a Mass at the Rosary basilica, Bishop Luc Crepy gave the homily, exhorting his peers to play their part in “this fight against scandalous and criminal actions affecting the smaller ones.” Bishop Crepy was appointed earlier this year as the new head of a Church panel targeting those committed acts of sexual abuse against children.

Following a call from Pope Francis to hold a worldwide day of prayers for victims, the church says meetings about paedophilia will also be organised in Lourdes, as well as Masses across the country.

Several French Church officials have been accused in recent months of failing to report paedophile priests to judicial authorities. In August, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was cleared of allegations he shielded a priest charged with sexual aggression and rape of a minor.

Cardinal Barbarin was questioned in June by investigators in the case of Fr Bernard Preynat, a priest accused of abusing boy scouts in the 1980s. Cardinal Barbarin said he was convinced the priest had reformed in 2007-2008 when they met.

Fr Preynat retired in August 2015 after being relieved of his duties by the diocese. He was charged in January with sexual aggression of minors for a person in a position of authority.

In May, Francis expressed support for Cardinal Barbarin, one of the highest-ranking prelates in the French Catholic Church, saying he shouldn’t resign.