Lyon, France, Mar 7, 2019 / 03:50 am
French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, was found guilty Thursday of failing to report to authorities the alleged sexual abuse of a priest in his diocese. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence. The cardinal has announced that he will resign his diocesan position.
French tribunal president Brigitte Vernay declared Barbarin guilty March 7 “of non-denunciation of ill-treatment” of a minor, according to AFP. Barbarin was not present in court for the verdict.
Five other archdiocesan officials on trial with Barbarin were acquitted March 7. Barbarin was also expected to be acquitted after even the prosecutor of the case argued there was no proof of the cardinal’s legal wrongdoing and therefore no grounds for conviction, the Associated Press reports.
The cardinal will appeal the verdict, according to AP. Barbarin’s lawyer, Jean-Felix Luciani, said Thursday about the conviction that "this is a decision that is not fair at the juridical level." Implying hope in the success of an appeal, he stated: "We hope that at the next step, justice will be done."
In a press conference after the verdict March 7, Barbarin told journalists that he will soon meet with Pope Francis and intends to submit to him his resignation as Archbishop of Lyon.
Barbarin also said that "after the decision of the court, regardless of my personal fate, I want to reiterate first of all compassion for the victims and the whole place that they and their families have in my prayers."
The trial against Barbarin began in January on charges he did not report facts of abuse to judicial authorities between July 2014 and June 2015, in a case involving Fr. Bernard Preynat, who has been accused of abusing dozens of minors in the 1980s and early '90s.
In 2017, the cardinal told Le Monde that he did not conceal allegations against Preynat, but said that his response to the allegations had been “inadequate.” He said he opened an investigation against Preynat after becoming aware of the allegations against him.