MADRID (Reuters) - An investigation by the Spanish Catholic Church into child sexual abuse by members of the clergy and non-clerical staff has so far identified 728 alleged abusers and 927 victims since the 1940s, according to its first report.
"We acknowledge the harm caused," said Jose Gabriel Vera, the spokesman for the Spanish Bishops' Conference. "We want to help all victims...to accompany them in their healing."
The issue came under a spotlight in Spain in 2021 after El Pais newspaper reported more than 1,200 alleged cases, years after sexual abuse scandals had rocked the Church in countries such as the U.S., Ireland and France.
Several inquiries have been launched, including one led by the country's ombudsman, and the Church's own internal investigation.
"We want to know what went wrong in the selection of candidates for the priesthood, what went wrong during their training...what has led a person who decided to give himself to God, to give himself to sexual abuse," Vera said.
The report, which compiled victims' testimonies and is not a proof of guilt or innocence, said more than 99% of the alleged perpetrators were male and that half of the abusers were clerics. Most of the recorded cases happened in the 1960s-1980s.
According to the victims - most of them male - more than 63% of the alleged abusers have died.
Last year, the office of Spain's national prosecutor wrote in a letter to the ombudsman that the Church's internal investigation was "partial" and "of little use".
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Miguel Gutierrez; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Sriraj Kalluvila)