An independent commission set up by the French Catholic Church to investigate the sexual abuse by clerics has estimated that the number of minor victims could reach “at least 10,000,” French media reported on Tuesday.

Jean-Marc Sauve, who heads the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE), set up to investigate the claims on sexual abuse since 1950, said: “It is possible that this figure reaches at least 10,000.”

Between June and October 2019, the commission set up a public appeal for witnesses to come forward for deposition. It collected 3,652 testimonies by telephone, 2,459 by email, and 360 by the postal service. In addition, another 1,628 victims filled in responses through questionnaires.

Based on this data, Sauve had initially estimated that figures of victims could be around 3,000. “The call for testimonies certainly does not take into account the totality and it is possible that this figure reaches at least 10,000,” Le Figaro daily quoted him as saying.

He added that the main task of the commission was to analyze the question: “What percentage of victims did the (clergy) touch? Is it 25%? 10%, 5% or less?”

The commission plans to submit the findings of the report and its recommendations by the end of September.

Following decades of rumors and whispers about sexual abuse in churches around the world, the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) and the Conference of Religious Men and Women of France (CORREF) in November 2018 undertook to form an independent commission.

It appointed Sauve, former vice president of the Council of State, to “shed light on sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church since 1950, to understand the reasons in which these cases were handled, and to make recommendations, in particular by evaluating the measures taken since the 2000s.”

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