LYON, Jan 11 — A court trying a French cardinal on charges he covered up the sexual abuse of minors by one of his priests will render its verdict on March 7, the judge in the case said yesterday.
The court in Lyon, southeast France, has spent the past four days trying Philippe Barbarin, the city’s 68-year-old archbishop, and five of his former aides.
Lawyers representing nine adult plaintiffs — former boy scouts allegedly abused by Bernard Preynat, a 73-year-old priest — led the charge against the archbishop, since prosecutors declined to press charges because of the statute of limitations.
The abuse relates to acts committed before 1991.
The trial went ahead only because victims of the abuse bypassed the prosecutor’s office and insisted, as they are entitled to, in putting their case before a court.
Barbarin and his co-defendants have denied covering up the scandal, with the archbishop saying he found out the full story about the priest only after the scandal went public.
Preynat, who was charged with sexual abuse in 2016, is expected to be tried later this year.
He was first interviewed by church leaders in 1991, but Barbarin only suspended him and stopped him from working with children in September 2015.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they insisted on having their day in court to hold to account the Catholic Church, which has been hit by a string of sexual abuse claims worldwide in recent years.
“What matters to me it to see Barbarin and his aides here, and for me, that in itself is a victory,” Didier Burdet, one of the plaintiffs, told AFP.
Clerics have been denounced in countries as far afield as Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ireland and the United States, leading Pope Francis to promise to rid the church of a scourge that has done enormous damage to its standing. — AFP