At least 4,815 children were sexually abused by members of the Portuguese Catholic Church – mostly priests – over the past 70 years, a commission investigating the issue said in its final report on Monday.
“(We want) to pay a sincere tribute to those who were abuse victims during their childhood and dared to give a voice to silence,” said the head of the commission, child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht. “They are much more than a statistic.”
Most of the perpetrators – 77% – were priests and most of the victims were men, Strecht said, adding that they were abused in Catholic schools, priests’ homes, confessionals, among other locations.
Jose Ornelas, head of the Bishops’ Conference, attended the final report’s presentation and will react to it later on Monday. The Church has previously said it was prepared to “take appropriate measures”.
The Portuguese commission started its work in January last year after a report in France revealed around 3,000 priests and religious officials sexually abused over 200,000 children.
The abuse allegations have come from people from various backgrounds, from every region of the country and also from Portuguese nationals living in other countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas.
The commission, which says it is independent, was financed by the Catholic Church. Asked by Reuters in December 2021 if that could be a threat to the commission’s independence, Strecht said he would be the first to walk out and denounce if the church intervened in the process.