An independent inquiry into alleged sex abuse of minors by French Catholic priests, deacons and other clergy has found some 216,000 victims of paedophilia from 1950 to 2020, a "massive phenomenon" that was covered up for decades by a "veil of silence."
The landmark report, released Tuesday after two and a half years of investigations, follows widespread outrage over a string of paedophilia claims and prosecutions against Church officials worldwide.
When lay members of the Church such as teachers at Catholic schools are included, the number of child abuse victims climbs to 330,000 over the seven-decade period.
"Until the early 2000s the Catholic Church showed a profound and even cruel indifference towards the victims," the president of the investigative committee, Jean-Marc Sauve, said at a press conference.
He denounced the "systemic character" of efforts to shield clergy from paedophilia claims.
The report, at nearly 2,500 pages, found that the "vast majority" of victims were pre-adolescent boys from a wide variety of social backgrounds.
"The Catholic Church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence," the report said.