The church will not fire a priest accused of sexually abusing indigenous children in Canada.

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A priest from France known as the “devil priest” is facing accusations of sexually abusing Inuit children in the northern region of Canada. Despite calls for action, senior church representatives in Rome have decided not to remove him from his position due to his advanced age and declining health.

From 1960 to 1970, Johannes Rivoire, a clergyman from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, served in multiple communities located in the Canadian Arctic. He then went back to his home country of France in 1993.

Authorities brought legal charges against Rivoire after he was accused of sexual assault in the towns of Arviat, Rankin Inlet, and Naujaat. However, the charges were ultimately dropped due to France’s policy of not extraditing their citizens to face trials in foreign countries. Even though Rivoire is now in his mid-90s, a warrant for his arrest is still active throughout Canada.

In 2021, Peter Irniq, an Inuk elder, spoke to APTN News and stated that his friend, Marius Tungilik, was among the alleged victims of Rivoire. Tungilik passed away by suicide at the age of 55 in 2012. According to Irniq, Tungilik struggled with alcoholism and was greatly affected by the actions of Rivoire, who he referred to as a “devil priest.”

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI Lacombe Canada and the Oblates of the Province of France had previously appealed to church authorities in Rome to remove Rivoire from his position. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate have also requested that Rivoire return to Canada to address the accusations against him, but he has declined to do so.

This week, Father Ken Thorson, the head of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) Lacombe Canada, informed the Canadian Press that Rivoire would not be released from his role in the Oblates due to his age.

Thorson expressed his strong disappointment with the ruling. While it may not have required Rivoire to return to Canada, Thorson believes that a different outcome from the Vatican could have demonstrated a willingness from the church to prioritize reconciliation and accountability.

On Tuesday, the justice minister, Arif Virani, told reporters that his government was working with Interpol on the case and had requested a “red notice” – a request to apprehend Rivoire if he ever left France.

Virani stated that Rivoire, who was relocated to an Oblates’ administration building in Lyon due to demonstrations outside of his retirement residence, is being accused of “unacceptable behavior” and it is crucial that we pursue justice against him and anyone else facing serious allegations.

Rivoire has rejected the accusations and they have not been verified in a legal setting.

The Oblates, both in Canada and in France, have asked for a separate examination by former judge André Denis, from the superior court of Quebec, regarding the accusations of sexual assault against Rivoire. This report, anticipated before April 1st, will provide recommendations on how Oblate procedures and management can be enhanced to safeguard minors and hold individuals responsible, although justice for the alleged victims is still unresolved.


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