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A 68-year-old monk from the Catalan town of Poblet, accused of a crime of sexual abuse of a minor on August 15th, would have admitted he is guilty of "a single touching" before the court of Valls, according to sources of the monastery that reported to ACN.

The statement was made Thursday at noon at the police station in Valls (Tarragona), after he was arrested on Wednesday by the Mossos d'Esquadra police and spent the night at the police station. He was charged and released.

The minor was on a tourist visit

The incident took place inside the monastery of Poblet and involved a minor who was on a tourist visit.

Sources from the Cistercian monastery explained to Efe that the incident occurred on August 15th, after the conventual mass, in the monastery square, when a monk was talking to the family of the 5-year-old girl, and the accused was playing with the minor in a public area.

According to the president of the board of trustees of Poblet, Tòfol Trepat, the monk left the mass at 12.30 p.m. with the girl's parents and, in the monastery square, with multiple people around, he made jokes and tickled the girl in front of her parents. At one point, the girl lifted up her skirt and it seems the monk touched her, a moment that a German tourist captured with his camera.

When he saw the photo and consulted with jurists in his country, he was advised to take the photograph to the police, which is why he filed a complaint with the photo to the Mossos, who also questioned the family and have yet to question the other monk who was there when the scene occurred.

Tòfol Trepat assured that "it is not credible that a minor was abused at 12.30 just outside the abbey church, in front of the parents, who, moreover, are well known in Poblet". "I am the first to criticise pederasty, but what happened in this case is a witch-hunt. I think everything has been cleared up, but the evil has already been done," Trepat said.

According to sources from the monastery, the family, who are very close to the monastery and regulars at its religious events, have not lodged any complaint, nor do they consider that the monk's actions could be considered a crime.

In any case, this complaint links the monastery —which is part of the archdiocese of Tarragona— with cases of alleged sexual abuse and paedophilia for the first time.

In a statement, the abbot of Poblet, Octavi Vilà, explained that he had immediately informed the community of these events and that, in agreement with the Monastery Council, the corresponding measures had been taken.

Provisional precautionary ban on the monk

A "precautionary prohibition has been imposed on the monk to exercise henceforth his capitular rights, to carry out any pastoral activity and to leave the enclosure", says the letter. A "prior canonical investigation has also been opened immediately, always in accordance with provisions of civil legislation for these cases, in order to report the facts to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as soon as possible". And finally, it has announced its intention to fully collaborate "with the police and the judicial authorities, with the aim of clarifying the facts and determining the responsibilities that may arise, always respecting the right to the presumption of innocence of the accused".

In particular, the monastery wishes to "show our solidarity and support to all those who may feel affected by these events, particularly the family of the minor. We are deeply hurt by this situation and we strongly express our commitment and will to fight against all types of abuse in the Church", the document concludes.