Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, after a drawn-out court case which concluded with the Archbishop of Lyon’s acquittal of having covered up sex abuse cases in his diocese.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who had his six-month sentence overturned on 30 January, has been accused of covering up the sexually abusive behaviour of now-defrocked priest, Bernard Preynat.
Having already presented his resignation to the Pope last year, at a time in which the court proceedings were still in full swing, Francis rejected it, although he allowed him to take a leave of absence while remaining archbishop of the Lyon diocese.
Despite his sentence being overturned, Barbarin earlier this year reiterated his request to resign.
Last March, Barbarin was convicted of covering up multiple cases of sexual abuse in his diocese, and was given a six-month suspended sentence.
The main person at the centre of the charges is Bernard Preynat, a now-defrocked priest who worked in the Lyon diocese.
Preynat was known to “caress” boys, and often boy scouts that would come to his parish. The 74-year old had admitted to the charges of sexually predatory behaviour and abuse.
Preynat said that he himself had been abused in the past, by priests and seminarians, and suggested that several Lyon prelates did nothing.
“They told me: you’re sick. They should have helped me. They let me become a priest,” he said.
The court’s desire to annul the March sentence came as insufficient evidence had been presented, with the public prosecutor already being hesitant last year, but compelled by public pressure to go ahead with the trial.
Though the Pope did not accept Barbarin’s resignation, the French Cardinal was sidelined when Bishop Michel Dubost was chosen as apostolic administrator with full control in the diocese.
Francis has long had close ties to Barbarin, and its decision to not accept his resignation was largely due to the uncertain course the court case was taking.
When the overturning of his conviction was announced on 30 January, Barbarin said “this decision allows a turning of the page. And for the Church in Lyon, it’s a chance to open a new chapter.”
He also reaffirmed that he would “calmly renew my request [to resign].”
With Francis’ decision to accept the resignation, attention now turns to the successor to the Archbishopric of Lyon, as the diocese will continue to try to cope with all that has come to the surface over the last year.