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French Catholic cardinal accused of child sex abuse coverup in court

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin in court on 7 January 2019, the most senior Catholic cleric involved in a paedophile scandal in France Emmanuel Foudrot/Reuters

A court in Lyon is expected to hand down a verdict on 7 March for the archbishop of Lyon, who was in court this week, accused of covering up the sexual abuse by minors. Phlippe Barbarin is the most senior Catholic cleric to be involved in a paedophile scandal in France. The plaintiffs, former Boy Scouts, allege they were abused by a priest and Barbarain helped cover it up.

Prosecutors declined to press charges because the acts date back to before 1991, past the statute of limitations. But the victims insisted on a trial anway, saying they are entitled to put their case before a court, to hold the Catholic Church to account.

Under French law, the court can still convict and even jail the suspect, regardless of the prosecutor's position.

Barbarin and his co-defendants have denied covering up anything, and Barbarain said he learned of the full story about the priest’s abuse only after scandal went public in 2015, when a former scout went public with allegations that he was abused as a child 25 years earlier.

Priest Bernard Preynat was charged with sexual abuse in 2016, and is expected to be tried later this year. Though he was interviewed by church leaders in 1991, Barbarin stopped him from working with children in September 2015.

Barbarin faces up to three years in prison and a 45,000 euro fine if he is found guilty of failing to report abuse of minors and failing to assist persons in danger.