The Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP), a society of apostolic life to evangelise Asia founded in 1663, became the latest group to be drawn into the clerical sexual abuse crisis with an investigation into a member priest for aggravated rape of “people in fragile situations” in Japan and France.
The investigation into Fr Aymeric de Salvert, a missionary sent home from Sapporo because of a homosexual relationship and later accused by an abuse victim in France, came to light as MEP has reportedly begun a wider review of possible abuse cases since 1950.
MEP issued a statement admitting the priest, whom it did not name, was taken into police custody on 5 April in Angers diocese in western France. Local reports said they also searched his premises and released him the next day.
It said he was innocent until proven guilty and the society was “fully committed to transparency and the fight against all kinds of abuse”.
Ordained as an MEP priest in 1997, the missionary was appointed to Sapporo in Japan in 1999 but sent back by the diocese there in 2011 because of a homosexual relationship.
While then serving in the MEP headquarters in Paris, a gay dating app was found on his smartphone, the weekly Famille Chretienne reported. MEP, with approval of the local bishop, posted him to a parish in Angers diocese in western France, his native region, in 2017.
According to La Croix, police opened a dossier on him after he was accused by a self-proclaimed victim in the Atlantic port city of Nantes.
Angers public prosecutor Eric Bouillard said the case, investigated in Angers since last November, was “divulged in fragments” and concerned “aggravated rape and non-denunciation of a crime”.
MEP, which has appealed to possible victims to come forward, has engaged outside consultants to help with its inquiry and communications.