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French cardinal who failed to report child sex abuse is to resign today

French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who received a six-month suspended jail sentence for failing to report sex abuse by a priest under his authority, is to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican today to tender his resignation.

French cardinal who failed to report child sex abuse is to resign today
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin will offer his resignation today. Photo: AFP

The private meeting is expected to take place around 0900 GMT, according to  his diocese, with the pontiff to decide within weeks whether to accept his  resignation.   

The pope has previously defended the cardinal, saying in 2016 that his  resignation before a trial would be “an error, imprudent”.

Barbarin is not expected to speak publicly.

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Fran cis said in February that “no abuse must ever be covered up, as has happened in the past”, or be under-estimated.

Barbarin, 68, is the most senior French cleric caught up in the global  paedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church. He said after his 
March 7 conviction that he would travel to Rome to tender his resignation.

The court in the southeastern French city of 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. It remains to be seen however if the pope will accept his resignation ahead of the appeal judgement.

His trial comes 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.

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CRIME

How France plans to prevents youngsters accessing online pornography

France is set to announce new measures this week to prevent youngsters from accessing porn websites, in the latest round of a years-long struggle to protect children from explicit material.

How France plans to prevents youngsters accessing online pornography

“I plan to put an end to this scandal,” Digital Affairs Minister Jean-Noel Barrot told the Parisien newspaper on Monday.

France’s data protection and media regulators Cnil and Arcom are set to announce their latest proposals to rein in porn websites which are in theory subject to a 2020 law requiring age verification.

Previous attempts have been held up by privacy and technical concerns, as well as court action by the websites.

To its frustration last September, a Paris court ordered Arcom to enter into mediation with several porn websites including market leader Pornhub, holding up efforts to block them.

READ MORE: France hits Google and Facebook with huge fines over ‘cookies’

Under the new proposal, people wanting to access explicit material will need to download a phone application that provides them with a digital certificate and code, the Parisien reported.

The code will be needed to access a porn website under a system “which will work a bit like the checks from your bank when you buy something online,” Barrot told the newspaper.

“2023 will mark the end of our children accessing pornographic sites,” he added.

President Emmanuel Macron, who is married to former school teacher Brigitte Macron, promised to make protecting children from porn a priority during his bid for re-election last year.

In November, he launched the Children Online Protection Laboratory, an initiative that aims to bring together industry giants and researchers to look for ways to shield minors online.

In September last year, a report entitled “Hell Behind the Scenes” by French senators concluded that there was “massive, ordinary and toxic” viewing of porn by children.

The report found that two thirds of children aged 15 or less had seen pornographic content.

The French production industry has been roiled by a series of sexual assault cases in recent years in which women have come forward to allege rape, mistreatment and manipulation by directors and fellow actors.

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