Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a French cardinal who failed to report an alleged paedophile priest, the Catholic Church in Lyon said.
Archbishop of Lyon Philippe Barbarin is the most senior French priest to be caught up in a global paedophilia scandal that has seen clergy hauled before courts from Argentina to Australia.
Barbarin, 69, a staunch conservative who became archbishop of Lyon in 2002, has long been accused by victims’ groups of turning a blind eye to decades of child abuse in his diocese that blighted many lives.
He was convicted last year of not reporting a priest for allegedly abused dozens of boy scouts in the 1980s and 1990s – but the conviction was overturned on appeal in January.
Appeals judges said Barbarin should have reported the priest but found that he could not be held criminally liable because the incidents happened too long ago.
Hours after the ruling, Barbarin announced he would offer his resignation to the pope, who had refused an initial request pending the outcome of the appeal. This time, the pope accepted his offer.
Bernard Preynat, the priest he was initially convicted of protecting, has been defrocked and is awaiting a ruling on March 16 in a sex-abuse trial.
Preynat confessed at trial in January to “caresses” he knew were forbidden and admitted he got sexual pleasure from acts with boy scouts at camps he supervised.
The appeals judges said it was “seriously objectionable from a moral point of view” that Preynat had been allowed to remain in contact with children for five years after he confessed the abuse to Barbarin.