By Anne Kurian

On March 6, 2020, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin from his responsibility as Archbishop of Lyon, announced the Holy See.

The Cardinal was acquitted on appeal last January 20, the outcome of his trial for non-denunciation of sexual abuse on minors in the framework of the affair of former priest Bernard Preynat. However, on being acquitted, he presented his resignation again to the Pope, whose answer was being awaited.

“By this decision, the diocese of Lyon waits for a new Pastor,” stated a press release of the Episcopal Conference of France (ECF).” On June 24, 2019, Monsignor Michel Dubost was appointed Apostolic Administrator to lead the diocese while Cardinal Barbarin was removed from the responsibility of government.

Monsignor Eric de Moulins-Beaufort hopes that after “the trials of these last months,” the Diocese of Lyon will be able to “pursue the work of truth and reconciliation in which it was engaged and renew its missionary impetus with a pure heart.”

The ECF thanked Cardinal Philippe Barbarin “for what he brought to the Church in France during his episcopal service at Moulins and at Lyon since 1998. It expressed to him its fraternal friendship when a new time of his ministry begins at the service of Christ and of the Church.” It also hopes that “the outcome of the procedures engaged in will contribute to the appeasement of victim persons, and repeats its profound grief over what they had to endure.”

The Primate of the Gauls, appointed Archbishop of Lyon in 2002, had been questioned since 2016 for “non-denunciation” of the sexual aggressions of a priest of his Diocese, Father Bernard Preynat, who abused some 70 minors in the framework of scouting in the 70’s and 80’s (at the time of Cardinal Albert Decourtray, whose immediate successors were the Archbishops Jean Balland and Louis-Marie Bille). On March 7, 2019, Cardinal Barbarin was declared culpable “of non-denunciation of bad treatment of minors between 2014 and 2015” and condemned to a six-month suspended prison sentence. He appealed the sentence, as did the Prosecutor of Lyon who obtained the acquittal In virtue of the presumption of innocence, Pope Francis didn’t accept the Cardinal’s resignation during the time of the trial.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester

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