A special meeting of Lyon priests, deacons and lay people voted that Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the city's archbishop, should resubmit his resignation to Pope Francis within three months to end the uncertainty hanging over the archdiocese.
The meeting of the diocesan councils of the three groups was called by Fr Yves Baumgarten, the vicar general in charge after Barbarin stepped aside following his civil conviction for covering up a clerical sexual abuse case that has rocked the archdiocese.
The Catholic daily La Croix called the vote “spectacular.” Participants said 48 of the 50 people present at the closed meeting supported the call for the resubmission.
The pope declined the resignation Barbarin submitted on 18 March but asked him to step aside while the appeal the cardinal filed against his conviction is considered.
Pope Francis defended that decision in comments on his plane returning from Morocco on 31 March. “Maybe he is not innocent, but the presumption (of innocence) must be there,” he said.
The 26 March meeting was an extraordinary session of members of Lyon’s priests’ council, the deacons’ council and council of lay people active in Church ministries.
Afterwards, Baumgarten said it was "necessary to find a quick solution to the current crisis of governance so we can take a just and authentic look at these recent years." He was due to contact the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops to discuss the situation.
Laure de Prémare, who trains lay people for work in church ministries, said meeting participants made up a representative sample of Catholics in Lyon archdiocese.
"Like the others, I took into account opinions I've heard and letters I've received that speak of a great sorrow and of a concern to get out of this situation in one way or another,” she said.
Fr Christian Delorme, a well-known Lyon priest, said Barbarin “should submit his resignation discreetly and a date should be set for his seat to be declared vacant”.
Some priests reportedly wanted a decision soon and would not attend the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday if Barbarin presided. Despite officially stepping aside, he remained active in archdiocesan affairs, they said.
“The cardinal continues to pull the strings. He should step down so the governance is clear,” France 3 television quoted one unnamed cleric as saying.
Baumgarten confirmed to the Paris daily La Croix that one of Lyon’s two auxiliary bishops would preside at the Chrism Mass.