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CHURCH

France dismisses sex abuse cover-up probe into Cardinal

A French prosecutor dismissed on Monday a probe into allegations that Cardinal Philippe Barbarin covered up the sexual abuse of scouts, in a case which shook the country's Catholic Church.

France dismisses sex abuse cover-up probe into Cardinal
Photo: AFP

Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon in central France since 2002, had been accused of failing to remove a priest from his diocese when he became aware the man had sexually abused young boys 25 years ago.

Barbarin has said he learned in 2007 that the priest, Bernard Preynat, had been accused of sexually abusing Scouts in the past.

Preynat was only charged in January after a victim who was allegedly abused in the 1980s realised in 2015 that the priest was still in service.

Several other victims have also come forward.

Barbarin has said that when he learned of the priest's past he immediately called a meeting with him and when he asked Preynat if he had committed further abuses since 1991 the priest swore he had not.

“You can reproach me for having believed him… but covering up means knowing and letting it happen,” Barbarin said, adding he had “absolutely never” done that.

Prosecutors say Preynat — who was removed from service in 2015 — has admitted the charges.

When complaints were first made against him in the 1980s, he was merely suspended for a few months.

The victims have filed complaints against several senior diocesan officials, including Barbarin, accusing them of failing to report the priest or remove him from duty despite being aware of his past.

Barbarin has admitted to “errors in the management and nomination of certain priests”.

After the scandal erupted, he in June relieved four priests of their functions over sexual abuse allegations.

The scandal was the worst to hit the Catholic Church in France since 2001, when a bishop was given a three-month suspended jail sentence for failing to inform authorities about a paedophile priest.

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CHRISTMAS

Congregation suffers carbon monoxide poisoning at French Christmas mass

Twenty-one people were hospitalised in northern France, two in a serious condition, after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning during Christmas mass, emergency services said Wednesday.

Congregation suffers carbon monoxide poisoning at French Christmas mass
Photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

Emergency personnel were sent to the church in the Oise department after several people complained of headaches during the religious ceremony on Christmas eve.

The church was evacuated to a nearby community hall where 72 people were treated.

Of those, 19 were brought to nearby hospitals and two, with more severe symptoms, to specialist centres where one was placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

Local emergency official Nicolas Mougin said carbon monoxide levels up to 350 parts per million (ppm) were measured inside the church.

The cause of the poisoning has not been determined but investigators were looking into a gas heater.

The local mayor has ordered the church closed.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, invisible gas produced when burning fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane or natural gas.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission's website states that exposure to sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm can lead to disorientation, unconsciousness and even death.

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