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French bishop resigns over 'inappropriate behaviour' with youths

The Bishop Hervé Gaschignard (left) of Dax (here in 2012) resigned at the behest of the Vatican. CC/Wikimedia

A bishop in southwestern France resigned on Thursday at the behest of the Vatican over "inappropriate behaviour" towards youths, the French Catholic Church said.

Herve Gaschignard, 57, bishop of the diocese of Dax, tendered his resignation at the suggestion of the Vatican's envoy to France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, the church said in a statement.

A separate statement from the Dax diocese said the resignation was over the bishop's behaviour with young people.

"For several weeks in the Dax diocese, rumours persisted over the bishop's inappropriate pastoral behaviour," the church statement said, adding that they had been brought to the attention of church authorities.

Pope Francis accepted Gaschignard's resignation, it added.

A spokesman for the diocese, Paul Perromat, said the resignation followed "possibly inappropriate comments and behaviour" by the bishop but that "it is in no case a question of sexual aggression or acts."

"As of now, no complaint has been lodged" with local prosecutors, adding that the church "thinks of all those hurt in this matter".

Ricard said two church workers "in contact with youths" had approached him on 21 March to voice their concerns.

Gaschignard's "behaviour upset and troubled a certain number of these young people, who spoke to their families about it," Ricard said.

The Vatican intervened in the case with a directness and rapidity it has often been accused of lacking over other cases, especially with high-ranking clerics accused of abuse or covering up for it.