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French cardinal reiterates innocence in abuse cover-up trial

A French cardinal took the stand in court on 7th January, the first day of a civil trial for Church officials accused of covering up abuse by a priest.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 68, testified in the case against him and others accused of covering up abuse by Fr Bernard Preynat, who has confessed to abusing minors at Lyon’s Saint-Luc Parish, where he ran a large Catholic Scout group in the 1970s and 1980s.

French newspapers said Fr Preynat had been moved to a new parish in Neulise after his crimes were reported to Lyon Cardinal Albert Decourtray, who died in1994. Fr Preynat was removed from parish work in August 2015. He reportedly has written some of his victims and confessed abuse; his trial will be separate.

Nine people who said Fr Preynat abused them brought the case to court, saying Church officials were aware of Fr Preynat’s actions for years, but allowed him to be in contact with children until 2015.

The Associated Press reported on 7th January that prosecutors initially threw out the case for insufficient evidence. Cardinal Barbarin’s lawyer says his client never obstructed justice because the statute of limitations had passed on the acts in question by the time Cardinal Barbarin was informed.

At the trial, Cardinal Barbarin said when he initially heard of the accusations, he encouraged one of the alleged victims to contact other victims and, “thanks to that,” the case against Fr Preynat was able to be built, AP reported.

Cardinal Barbarin testified that he sought advice counsel on how to handle abuse accusations against Fr Preynat from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Rome told me to remove him from his parish,” AP reported Cardinal Barbarin as testifying. “I have never tried to hide facts and even less to cover these facts.”

Picture: French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon arrives at the courthouse in Lyon on 7th January. Cardinal Barbarin and others are on trial for failing to discipline a local priest who allegedly abused children while running a Scout group in the 1980s. (CNS photo/Vatican Media).