Cardinal Barbarin was convicted by a French civil court in March 2019 on charges of failing to report the allegations against Preynat, but his conviction was overturned on appeal Jan. 30.
The appeals court had accepted evidence from one of Preynat's victims, who had thanked the cardinal for his advice in bringing the former priest to justice. Cardinal Barbarin had told the victim that while his abuse had passed the statute of limitation, he should find more recent instances to bring to court.
Jean-Felix Luciani, the cardinal's lawyer, told reporters that "the court has just acquitted the cardinal on the fundamentals of the case, by indicating that no offence has been committed, for a number of reasons...and for one key reason in particular: that the cardinal never intended to obstruct justice."
"This wrong was today righted … Cardinal Barbarin is innocent."
Cardinal Barbarin, who is 69, offered to resign as Archbishop of Lyon after his 2019 conviction and he stepped back from the governance of his local Church. The acceptance of his resignation was delayed.
Papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in March 2019 that Francis had chosen to not accept the resignation of the cardinal as Archbishop of Lyon but, aware of the "difficulties" of the archdiocese at the present moment, "left Cardinal Barbarin free to make the best decision for the diocese."
After his successful appeal, Cardinal Barbarin's resignation was accepted March 6.
Bishop Michel Dubost, 77, who is Bishop Emeritus of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes, has served as apostolic administrator of Lyon since June 2019.