Published:  12:55 AM, 16 March 2019

Convicted French cardinal Barbarin to meet Pope Francis

Convicted French cardinal Barbarin to meet Pope Francis French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (L), pictured here with Pope Francis in 2016, is expected to tender his resignation. -AFP

French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who received a six-month suspended jail sentence for failing to report sex abuse by a priest under his authority, will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday, officials in his southeastern Lyon diocese said.

Barbarin, the most senior French cleric caught up in the global paedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church, had said after his conviction last week that he would travel to Rome to tender his resignation.The pontiff will grant the 68-year-old archbishop of Lyon a private audience at 10am (0900GMT), French church officials said.

On March 7 a court in Lyon found Barbarin guilty of failing to report allegations that a priest, Bernard Preynat, had abused boy scouts in the Lyon area in the 1980s and 1990s. The priest, who was charged in 2016, is expected to be tried this year. Barbarin's lawyer immediately announced plans to fight the landmark ruling, which was hailed by abuse victims as ushering in a new period of accountability in the French church.

His trial came as Francis battles to restore faith in the church following a slew of abuse scandals that have spanned the globe, from Australia to Chile and the United States. Less than a week after Barbarin's conviction the Vatican's former number three, Australian Cardinal George Pell, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Melbourne court for the "brazen" sexual abuse of two choirboys.

Barbarin, an arch-conservative who took over as archbishop in Lyon in 2002, was an outspoken opponent of gay marriage. He had long been accused by victims' groups in Lyon of turning a blind eye to child abuse in his diocese which blighted dozens of lives."I cannot see what I am guilty of," Barbarin told the court at the start of the trial in January. "I never tried to hide, let alone cover up, these horrible facts."

But the court found otherwise, saying the archbishop, "in all conscience", chose not to tell authorities of the abuse allegations "in order to preserve the institution to which he belongs".Two other senior French religious figures have been convicted of failing to report child abuse in the past: Pierre Rican, the archbishop of Bayeux-Lisieux, in 2001, and the former bishop of Orleans, Andre Fort, last year.

---AFP, Lyon

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