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Pope meets French cardinal accused of paedophilia cover-up

Pope Francis meets with French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin at the Vatican
Pope Francis meets with French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin at the Vatican OSSERVATORE ROMANO/AFP

Vatican City (AFP)

Pope Francis met Thursday with French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is awaiting trial over allegations he covered up for a paedophile priest in his diocese.

It was the first time Francis has met with Barbarin, the Archbishop of Lyon, since the cardinal learned last month that he would have to appear in court in April in connection with priest Bernard Preynat's abuse of boy scouts in the 1980s.

Public prosecutors ruled last year that Barbarin did not have a case to answer but he and six other co-defendants have been directly indicted by some of Preynat's victims. A judge ruled last month that the case could proceed.

Barbarin, 66, faces a potential jail sentence if found guilty of failing to act immediately and appropriately when one of the victims reported Preynat to the Church in 2014, demanding he be sacked.

But Barbarin -- one of the French Church's most prominent figures -- left him in his post for several more months.

The cardinal has denied any attempt to shield Preynat, saying he did not know how to deal with allegations relating to events dating back over two decades.

But after initially saying he first learned of the allegations in 2014, Barbarin admitted in 2016 to having known about the allegations for nearly a decade.

The case has been damaging for the church in France and the credibility of Francis's promises to rid the global institution of a scourge that has done enormous damage to its standing with believers and non-believers alike.

Francis has said senior clerics who shield paedophile priests should resign, but he has stood by Barbarin, insisting the cardinal, to whom he is reportedly close, took the necessary measures in the Preynat case.

Barbarin was received at the Vatican along with 75 priests from the Lyon diocese.

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