French Cardinal convicted of covering up child sex abuse by one of his priests will meet Pope Francis to resign next week
- Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, was given six-month suspended sentence
- Went on trial for failing to report alleged abuse by Reverand Bernard Preynat
- First interviewed Preynat in 1991, but only stopped him working with kids in 2015
A French Cardinal who was handed a suspended jail sentence for covering up child sex abuse by a priest under his responsibility has been called to meet Pope Francis.
Philippe Barbarin, the most senior French cleric caught up in the global paedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church, had said after his conviction last week that he would travel to Rome to tender his resignation to the pope.
He will meet the Pope at the Vatican on Monday, officials in his Lyon diocese said.
Barbarin was found guilty of failing to report allegations of abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s by Reverand Bernard Preynat, who is due to go on trial later this year.
He and five former aides went on trial in Lyon at a time when the Catholic Church has been hit by abuse scandals in countries as far afield as Australia, Chile and the United States.
Philippe Barbarin, pictured with Pope Francis in 2016, will travel to the Vatican to resign to the Pope in person after being convicted of covering up child sex abuse by one of his priests
Barbarin was found guilty of failing to report allegations of abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s by Reverand Bernard Preynat, who is due to go on trial later this year
The outcome of the trial, which began in January, had been long awaited in France.
Earlier, Barbarin, who was once tipped as a future Pope, had said: ‘I cannot see what I am guilty of. I never tried to hide, let alone cover up these horrible facts.’
The case broke three years ago and lawyers for nine adult plaintiffs – former boy scouts allegedly abused by priest Preynat – took legal action.
Since the abuse relates to acts committed before 1991, prosecutors had declined to press charges because of the statute of limitations.
The trial went ahead only because the plaintiffs bypassed the prosecutor’s office and insisted, as they are entitled, on putting their case before a court.
Under French law, the court can still convict and even jail the suspect, regardless of the prosecutor’s position.
Barbarin and his co-defendants have denied covering up the scandal, with the archbishop saying he found out the full story about the priest only after it became public.
Preynat, who was charged with sexual abuse in 2016, is expected to be tried later this year.
He was first interviewed by church leaders in 1991, but Barbarin only suspended him and stopped him from working with children in September 2015.
Preynat was first interviewed by church leaders in 1991, but Barbarin only suspended him and stopped him from working with children in September 2015
Plaintiffs point to an exchange in 2015 between Barbarin and the Vatican, which advised him to dismiss the offending priest ‘while avoiding public scandal’.
Jean Boudot, lawyer for the victims, accused Barbarin of being a ‘liar’ when he said he had only learned of the breadth of the damage in 2014.
Barbarin said he confronted Preynat, about the abuse ‘rumours’ in 2010 but let the matter drop after Preynat insisted he had changed.
In 2014, after meeting with one of the priest’s victims, Barbarin contacted the Vatican about the affair, but he only removed the priest from his post a few months later.
Two other French religious figures have been convicted of failing to report child abuse in the past: the archbishop of Bayeux-Lisieux, Pierre Rican, in 2001, and the former bishop of Orleans, Andre Fort, last year.
Pope Francis last month promised an ‘all-out battle’ to tackle every single case of sexual abuse by priests, comparing paedophilia to ‘human sacrifice’, but drew an angry response from victims.