French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin met with Pope Francis in the Vatican Monday, tendering his resignation as archbishop of Lyon after being convicted of failing to denounce an abusive priest.
Two weeks ago, a French court found Cardinal Barbarin guilty of having failed to report Father Bernard Preynat, a priest who was accused by numerous victims of having carried out dozens of acts of sexual abuse of minors in boy scout camps between 1986 and 1991. The priest has admitted at least some of these crimes to police.
The court handed the prelate a suspended sentence of six months in prison. Named archbishop of Lyon in 2002, Barbarin is the first high-ranking Catholic prelate to be convicted of covering up clerical sex abuse and endangering minors.
In a brief statement to the press, the 68-year-old Barbarin announced he would travel to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis to deliver his resignation.
Pope Francis received Barbarin in a private, half-hour meeting at 10:00am Monday. Neither the archdiocese of Lyons nor the Vatican furnished information of what transpired during the meeting. Cardinal Barbarin will return to France Monday evening, according to reports.
Barbarin’s attorneys have already appealed the court’s decision.
“It is important to note that the resignation is the act of a pastor, the act of the Archbishop of Lyon, which concerns the diocese,” said the cardinal’s spokesman, Bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard. “He believes in conscience he is resigning for the good of the Church of Lyon. But he is also a citizen French with rights and his lawyers think that there are legal consequences in this case.”
There are various courses open to Pope Francis, Gobillard explained.
“The pope could refuse his resignation; he could accept it with immediate effect; he could accept it but ask him to stay on as diocesan administrator to ensure the transition until his successor is appointed; he could appoint another diocesan administrator; or he could instruct the eldest auxiliary bishop to convoke the college of consultors to elect a diocesan administrator,” he said.
According to his spokesman, Cardinal Barbarin said, “The victims have suffered too much, the diocese has suffered too much, perhaps the time has come for a change.”
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