Over 100,000 people have signed a petition for the resignation of convicted child abuse concealer Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon (France).
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110,579 was the final number of signatories Valence priest Father Pierre Vignon obtained during an eighteenth-month long online petition against Barbarin, 69, Archbishop of Lyon since 2002.
In August 2018 Vignon started the signature drive, horrified at the cardinal’s failure to report to police the crimes of pedophile priest Father Bernard Preynat, who stands accused of having molested up to 70 young scouts in the 70s and 80s.
Not only did Barbarin not report Preynat to police, but he let the alleged pedophile continue to work as a priest, and with children, up to his retirement in 2015.
Former ecclesiastical judge Vignon – who admitted he was inspired by Pope Francis’ August 2018 “Letter to the People of God” on abuse in the Church – said he started the petition against Barbarin because he didn’t want to be considered an “accomplice” of the cardinal.
Vignon subsequently won the backing of the association of Preynat’s victims, La Parole Libérée, as well as that of the thousands of members of the Church and the general public.
Barbarin was convicted by a Lyon court in March for the non-denunciation of crimes against minors and slapped with a six-month prison sentence.
During the trial, Barbarin already gave voice to his desire to resign “for the good of the archdiocese”, but after the sentence Pope Francis refused to grant the cardinal that wish, insisting instead that he step aside “for a while”.
“You must always keep in mind the presumption of innocence. This is important because it goes against a superficial media condemnation”, Francis said at the time.
In June, in Barbarin’s absence, the Pope named Bishop Emeritus of Evry-Crobeil-Essonnes Michel Dubost as Apostolic Administrator of Lyon, who continues to this day.
Just last week Barbarin’s appeal against his conviction was heard in court, where the cardinal admitted “I cannot see clearly what I am guilty of”.
In the appeal both the defence and the prosecution asked the court to quash the cardinal’s sentence, with prosecutors arguing against a “symbolic” conviction and against turning Barbarin into a scapegoat for the Church’s “mistakes” in child protection.
“I put myself at the mercy of the court”, Barbarin said after the appeal, the result of which is expected to be handed down January 30 next year.
In the meantime, Preynat will face a criminal trial for his confessed abuse also from January.
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