Members of the Portuguese Catholic Church have abused nearly 5,000 children over the past seven decades, according to a report from a commission investigating the matter.

The report added that the findings were the tip of the iceberg as at least 4,815 victims of child sexual abuse by members of the Portuguese Catholic Church, mostly priests, were identified.

“(We want to) pay tribute to those who were abused as children and dared to give a voice to silence,” said child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, who led the commission. “They are much more than statistics.”

Strecht said the 4,815 cases were the “absolutely minimal” number of victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy in Portugal since 1950.

Most of the perpetrators (77%) were priests and most of the victims were men, Strecht said, adding that they were abused in Catholic schools, churches, priests’ houses and confessionals, among other places.

Most of the sexual harassment took place when the children were 10-14 years old and the youngest victim was only 2 years old.

José Ornelas, head of the Bishops’ Conference, attended the presentation of the final report and will respond to it later on Monday. The Church has previously said it is ready to “take appropriate action.”

The Portuguese Catholic Church was appalled last year by cases of alleged cover-ups of sexual harassment, including by bishops who continue to be active in church functions. The commission said it was preparing a list of accused priests who are still working.

The Portuguese commission began its work in January 2022 after a report in France showed that some 3,000 priests and religious figures sexually abused more than 330,000 children.

Allegations of abuse came from people from all walks of life, from all regions of the country, as well as from Portuguese citizens living elsewhere in Europe, Africa and the Americas.

The commission interviewed more than 500 victims, analyzed historical church documents, and interviewed bishops and other clergy.

A total of 25 testimonies heard by the commission were sent to the prosecutor’s office for investigation, since all the rest were made more than 20 years ago and criminal prosecution can no longer be initiated.

The commission said the law should be changed to allow prosecution of historic crimes committed 30 years ago.

The commission, which claims to be independent, was funded by the Catholic Church.

Asked by Reuters in December 2021 if this could pose a threat to the commission’s independence, Strecht said he would be the first to come out and denounce it if the church interfered in the process.

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Eddie Hudson is an Entertainment News Reporter and Fashion Stylist. Graduated with a degree in Television Production from Howard University. He is an award-winning entertainment news reporter at 24PalNews and credits his upbringing and passion for helping others as the foundation for his success.

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