The decision of the Vatican, in the midst of the storm that the Church is going through the scandals of abuse of minors, is again surprising. Especially after the spectacular staging carried out in the Holy See during the summit last February. The Pope, against all odds, rejected the resignation of the French cardinal on Monday Philippe Barbarin, sentenced to six months in prison for covering up the abuse of minors he was aware of between 2014 and 2015. As confirmed by his spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, Francisco left the cardinal the freedom to make the decision that he believed more timely invoking his presumption of innocence and thinking about the good of the archbishopric. The cardinal announced today that he will temporarily retire from his post as the head of the archbishopric of Lyon.
Barbarin, 68, explains in a statement that he has decided to retire "for a certain time" from the front line of the diocese, although he will formally remain at his head as archbishop of Lyon, a title he holds. "By his suggestion (of the Pope) and because the Church of Lyon has been suffering for three years, I have decided to retire for some time and leave the leadership of the diocese to the vicar general Yves Baumgarten, "he said. Barbarin has already made it clear that he will file a second-instance appeal.
The conviction of the cardinal, one of the most powerful men of the Catholic Church in France, was a surprise in his country and in the Vatican itself. No one, not even the Pope, judging from his reaction, thought he would be condemned. In fact, when the court of Lyon that judged him requested the appearance as a witness of the cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Ladaria, the Vatican allowed itself to invoke the diplomatic immunity of the prelate to avoid his declaration. A gesture completely opposed to the line of collaboration with the justice that the Pope asks the bishops in their countries and that caused indignation in the victims. Especially when the concept of "zero tolerance" becomes something so interpretable.
The decision of the Pope, who according to Barbarin has appealed to the "presumption of innocence", coincides with the attitude shown towards Cardinal George Pell, former Minister of Finance of the Vatican. Never -not to be accused or after knowing his conviction- was forced to resign from his position. In fact, his term expired naturally and today, in prison until his second instance appeal is resolved, he remains a cardinal. A majority of people consider in the Vatican that the Australian cardinal is innocent and will be acquitted when he has a "fair trial" without a jury. A sensation similar to that which the Holy See now goes through with the French prelate. Yesterday, in fact, Francisco was photographed smiling and with him and shaking his hand.
Barbarin announced his intention to present his resignation to Pope Francis a few hours after the court of correction in Lyon declared him, on March 7, "guilty for not having reported ill-treatment" against a minor between 2014 and 2015, the years in which the first victims of the priest Bernard Preynat came to him to tell him about the abuses suffered 25 years ago and to demand that the priest not continue working with children. The judges therefore sentenced him to six months in prison, although exempted from serving his sentence. The sentence came as a surprise even to the plaintiffs, who went to the courts in particular because the prosecutor's office in Lyon refused to press charges – a position he reaffirmed during the trial last January – when considering that they had prescribed.