French cardinal mooted as possible future pope convicted of covering up child sexual abuse

French cardinal mooted as possible future pope convicted of covering up child sexual abuse

A French cardinal was convicted of covering up child sexual abuse by one of his priests and given a six-month suspended prison sentence by a Lyon court on Thursday.

Philippe Barbarin, the Archbishop of Lyon, was found guilty of failing to report allegations that the priest was abusing boy scouts.

Barbarin, 68, once seen as a possible future pope, is the highest-profile Roman Catholic cleric in France to become embroiled in a child abuse case.

He stood trial with five former aides in a case that attracted huge media attention in France after clerical abuse scandals in Australia, the United States, Ireland and Chile. Two weeks ago, Australia’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, was convicted of abusing two choirboys in 1996.

Church sources said there would be huge pressure on Barbarin to resign. 

He denies any wrongdoing and his lawyer, Jean-Félix Luciani, said he would appeal against the conviction. “This is a decision that is not fair at the juridical level,” Mr Luciani said.

Some of the alleged acts of abuse date back to the 1980s and 1990s and prosecutors had declined to press charges against Barbarin for failing to report them to the authorities because of France’s statute of limitations.

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