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French Cardinal resigns after being found guilty of sex abuse cover-up

media Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barabarin Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barabarin in court earlier this year REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Lyon has been convicted of failing to act on historic allegations of sexual abuse of boy scouts in his diocese, handing Cardinal Philippe Barbarin a six-month suspended jail sentence.

Editorial note 16:45 03/07:The archbishop of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin, the most senior French cleric caught up in the global paedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic church, announced his resignation Thursday after being given a six-month suspended jail term for failing to report sex abuse. 

68-year old Barbarin, the most senior French Catholic cleric to be caught up in paedophilia scandals that have rocked the church, was found guilty this Thursday of failing to report the abuse of a minor between 2014 and 2015.

Although not present in the Lyon court this morning, his lawyers immediately announced that he would appeal the judgement.

According to lawyer Jean-Felix Luciani, "the reasoning of the court is not convincing," adding that the decicion will be contested "by all the means possible."

Cover-up over 30 years not pursued

The French cardinal has faced long-standing allegations from victims' groups that he failed to report a priest under his authority to police after learning of abuse which took place in the 1980s and 1990s.

However prosecutors judged that those crimes were beyond the statute of limitations, meaning they were too old to prosecute, and declined to press charges.

During the proceedings, victims accused Barbarin of being aware of the abuse allegations from at least 2010 and then trying to cover up the scandal, under orders from the Vatican, from 2015.

Victory for abuse survivors

The leader of one victims' group in Lyon, Francois Devaux, called Thursday's verdict a "major victory for child protection." 

The Catholic Church has been rocked for over a decade by claims against priests which have come to light in the wake of a global move by victims to go public with evidence.

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.

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