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French cardinal in court on charges of not reporting historical abuse

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (R) welcoming French pilgrims before the arrival of Pope Francis Pope Francis in St Peter's Square earlier this year. (Getty Images)

The Archbishop of Lyon and six other priests are to be tried on charges of not reporting historical abuse, according to news channel France24.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and his co-defendants have been ordered to appear in court in April, for a trial expected to last three days.

The 66-year-old cardinal is accused of failing to report Fr Bernard Preynat to authorities after a former scout in 2014 accused the cleric of abusing him in the 1980s. Cardinal Barbarin left the priest in his post, where he had contact with children, until 2015. The cardinal denies any wrongdoing.

In 2016, Cardinal Barbarin was summoned as a witness on the request of the victims who filed the complaint against Preynat. He said at the time: “Their suffering is as painful today as it was 30 years ago. For them, it is appalling and unacceptable that he was allowed to carry on serving as a priest,” Barbarin said.

In May the same year, Pope Francis defended Cardinal Barbarin, telling French Catholic newspaper La Croix: “Based on the information that I have, I believe that Cardinal Barbarin in Lyon took the necessary measures and that he has matters under control.”

With respect to the abuse scandal in the diocese, Pope Francis said: “It is not easy to judge the facts decades later in a different context, but there can be no statute of limitations for the church in this field. … As Benedict XVI said, there must be zero tolerance.”

Cardinal Barbarin was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI, and the 2013 conclave which elected Pope Francis.