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French cardinal to face trial over 'cover up' of priest's sex abuse

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French cardinal to face trial over 'cover up' of priest's sex abuse
Photo: AFP
15:47 CEST+02:00
A French Cardinal will go on trial in April accused of covering up the sexual abuse of children by a paedophile priest in his Lyon diocese over 25 years ago, a court ruled Tuesday.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the most senior French Catholic leader to be tried for allegedly failing to report a predator priest, will go on trial on April 4 next year, a court in Lyon said.

The Cardinal, who has been the archbishop of Lyon since 2002, and six other defendants are suspected of having covered up a priest's child abuse in the 1980s by failing to inform the authorities. 

Barbarin has always denied the allegations but last year he came under immense pressure when the sex abuse scandal first emerged.

The then Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged Barbarin to "take responsibility" for the scandal.

In August last year the affair appeared to have been buried when a French prosecutor declined to put Barbarin on trial for the alleged cover up.

But the priest's victims refused to allow the allegations to drop and launched their own proceedings directly with the court.

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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