French cardinal found guilty of failing to act on sexual abuse allegations

Lyon’s archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin arrives at the city’s courthouse to attend his trial

Lyon’s archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin arrives at the city’s courthouse to attend his trial

He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence.

The suspended nature of the jail sentence means Barbarin will not serve time behind bars, but his defense lawyer immediately announced he would appeal.

In a surprise decision in France's most important church sex abuse trial, a court on Thursday found top Catholic official Cardinal Philippe Barbarin guilty of failing to report to law enforcement accusations against a pedophile priest.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin waits for the start of his trial at the Lyon courthouse, central France.

The court ruled that "even though his duties gave him access to all of the information" and that "he had the ability to usefully analyze and communicate", Barbarin chose not to tell the authorities in order to "protect the institution he belongs to".

Five former aides who were also on trial alongside Barbarin were all found not guilty, either because the alleged crimes were too old or unproven. He is now appealing that verdict.

His defence lawyer Jean-Felix Luciani said that "the reasoning of the court is not convincing".

French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin said he will offer his resignation to Pope Francis after a court found him guilty of failing to report to authorities allegations of sexual abuse by a priest.

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Delivering a brief statement after Thursday's verdict, Barbarin reiterated that he has compassion for the victims in the case.

In 2017, the cardinal told Le Monde that he did not hide allegations against Father Preynat, but said that his response to the allegations had been "inadequate".

The archbishop had said in a newspaper interview he was first made aware of allegations against the priest "in 2007 or 2008".

Barbarin, an arch-conservative who took over as archbishop in Lyon in 2002, was dubbed "Mr. 100,000 volts" by the press for the dynamism he displayed in his campaigns for persecuted Syrian Christians or against gay marriage.

Father Preynat was banned from leading boy scout groups in the early 1990s, but remained in ministry until being removed by Cardinal Barbarin in 2015.

All of these high-level convictions have come in the wake of a landmark summit with church leaders summoned to Rome by Francis for a tutorial on preventing clergy sexual abuse and protecting children from predator priests.

The case also has touched the Vatican - which invoked diplomatic immunity last October, when it refused to officially notify Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of the Lyon court's summons for him to testify. In October, the Vatican invoked diplomatic immunity in refusing to deliver a French court summons to Cardinal Ladaria, saying that, as a minister of Vatican City State, he is protected under global law.

"We will therefore contest this decision", the lawyer said, adding that the court had been under pressure as a result of documentaries and a film about the case.

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