Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Phillipe Barbarin as Archbishop of Lyon.
The Cardinal was recently been aquitted of a conviction of failing to report abuse in his successful appeal of a 2019 court decision.
He had received a six-month suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of failing to report the abuse of a minor by a priest in his Diocese, Fr Bernard Preynat. At the time of his conviction in March, five other officials from his diocese were aquitted of similar charges, and Barbarin’s appeal was widely expected to be successful on the grounds of lack of evidence.
Barbarin, aged 69, Archbishop of Lyon since 2002, and Cardinal since 2003, was accused of not reporting cases of abuse to legal authorities between 2014 and 2015. Whilst Barbarin has stressed that he did not conceal instances of abuse by Fr Preynat, he has also admitted that his response was “inadequate”. Preynat was only suspended from ministry in 2015, long after Barbarin was first aware he had been credibly accused of abuse of minors.
The Cardinal had previously sent a letter of resignation to Pope Francis after his conviction last year, but the Pope had not accepted it, given his appeal was still pending.
However, in June 2019 the Pope appointed the retired Bishop Michel Dubost to act as apostolic administrator with full authority in Barbarin’s diocese, strongly suggesting that Barbarin would not stay on as Archbishop after his appeal concluded. Earlier this year the Cardinal gave an interview indicating that he felt his reputation would always be tied to the case in spite of his acquittal.
He announced his intention to resubmit his resignation in a statement early last month, saying that his resignation “allows a turning of the page. And for the Church in Lyon, it’s a chance to open a new chapter”.
The French bishops have initiated an independent investigation into sexual abuse cases, which will report back in 2021. More than 3,400 complaints have been registered with the investigation since it began work in June 2019.