French cardinal to be acquitted of covering sex abuses in Lyon

French cardinal to be acquitted of covering sex abuses in Lyon

Public prosecutor says she would not ask for Cardinal Philippe Barbarin’s conviction

By Elisabeth Auvillain

Paris — One of France’s most prominent bishops, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, is likely to be acquitted of charges of not denouncing a priest who sexually abused children between 1971 and 1991.

French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon arrives at the courthouse Jan. 7 in Lyon. Barbarin and others were on trial for failing to discipline a local priest who allegedly abused children while running a Scout group in the 1980s. (CNS/Reuters/Emmanuel Foudrot)

At the end of his four-day trial, Jan. 7-10, in Lyon, public prosecutor Charlotte Trabaut announced she would not ask for his conviction. Even though the president of the tribunal is not bound by the prosecutor’s stand, it seems likely that the cardinal will be acquitted.

French judicial authorities opened a case against Barbarin in 2016, in the name of the French state. The court closed it, invoking statute of limitation.

Then the group named La Parole Libérée (“the word made free”), brought the charges in a private prosecution, in their own name, as partiesciviles — private victims — after discovering, in 2015, that Fr. Bernard Preynat was still working with young boys. They thought this personal action could convince a court of the prejudice they suffered, knowing most facts fell under the statute of limitation.

Stern and slightly stooped, Barbarin, 68, said he was not guilty of anything: “I never tried to hide and certainly not cover anything.” He then kept quiet, letting his lawyers speak for him during the whole procedure and explain he only made mistakes in managing the case and would act differently today.

He did not ask for forgiveness from the victims of Preynat, whom Barbarin was responsible for, since the priest served in his diocese.

For La parole Libérée, the purpose of this legal action was to tell publicly what had happened. For two days, the court heard moving testimonies from nine of Preynat’s victims, who described, painfully and with graphic details, how they were sexually assaulted.

Victims unite

The long history of this case begins in 1971, when Preynat was appointed as a parish priest to Saint Luc, a new church in a rapidly growing neighborhood of Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, where he became chaplain of a troop of scouts, boys and girls.

A charismatic man, Preynat was very popular with a lot of parents, who thought he did a great job organizing activities for the scouts and taking them to camp. His authoritarian ways were reassuring at a time when the church was in the wake of Second Vatican Council. Liturgy was changing, a lot of priests left to get married, and parishioners were disoriented.

Preynat often became a friend of the family. Some thought he was a little too close to little boys, but nobody imagined for a moment what was happening in his office, on the first floor of the rectory, when he would ask one of the boys to come and see him.

From 1979 to 1991, he regularly abused boys, even raped some of them. Sixty-five cases have been documented by La parole Libérée, and there are estimates of about 100 victims altogether.

As is often the case, the boys never talked about the abuse, either to their parents or their peers. But in early 1991, when the mother of 11-year-old François Devaux overheard her son talking with his brother, bragging about being a favorite of the priest and telling him, “He even kisses me on the mouth,” Devaux’s parents were shocked. They asked him questions and started talking to other parents. Some of them echoed their worries, others defended Preynat.

Devaux’s parents asked for the priest to be sent to another mission, away from children. When nothing happened, Devaux’s mother sent a letter by registered mail to the archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Albert Decourtray, writing she was going to the press if Preynat was not removed.

A few weeks later, the priest was appointed as chaplain to the congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious community caring for old people.

Decourtray thought the matter was closed. Preynat told the cardinal he would never do anything wrong again. The cardinal urged the parents not to file a civil complaint, for the sake of the unity of the church.

Six months later, though, contrary to his promise to Devaux’s parents, Decourtray appointed Preynat to a country parish, away from the city of Lyon.

Decourtray died suddenly in 1995 and was replaced by Cardinal Jean Marie Balland, who died three years later. Cardinal Louis-Marie Billé served as archbishop from 1998 until he died in 2002.

When Barbarin became archbishop of Lyon in 2002, he met Preynat and asked him about his past. “He told me he was ashamed and had never done anything since 1991. I believed him. I trusted him,” the cardinal is quoted as saying to journalist Isabelle de Gaulmyn senior editor of the French Catholic daily La Croix, and the author of Histoire d’un silence, the most comprehensive and well documented investigation on the scandal.

Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is pictured May 17, 2018. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Apparently, there was no trace of the scandal in the priest’s file, except for the letter sent by Devaux’s parents. “This is something which happened before my time,” Barbarin would repeat at his trial. “My predecessors dealt with it, I had no reason to reopen the case.”

In 2002, the Annual Assembly of French Bishops voted on an important declaration stating that “Priests guilty of pedophile acts … have to face justice,” adding that bishops should not stay passive and cover such acts.

Barbarin admitted he knew Preynat was suspected of inappropriate behavior with children. But nobody had sued us, he said, repeating this was for him “a thing of the past.” “It wasn’t until I met with AlexandreHezez in 2014 that I understood the problem,” Barbarin is quoted as saying by De Gaulmyn in the same interview. “Until then I heard only rumors.”

Hezez, one of the founders of La Parole Libérée, was among those who told the court how he was sexually abused between the age of 8 and 11 by Preynat. In 2014, when he recognized Preynat at a parish feast and heard that he was in contact with children, he asked Barbarin for an explanation.

Before taking action, Barbarin asked the Vatican for advice. Rome took several months to tell him to send Preynat, then 74, into early retirement, “avoiding any scandal.” Barbarin waited another 10 months to forbid Preynat to celebrate Mass and perform sacraments.

In the meantime, he met with Hezez and proimised him he would take action against Preynat. But it took so long for Preynat to be removed from ministry that Hezez decided to write to Lyon’s prosecutor’s office, telling him about Preynat’s actions. Legal action was then taken.

At the same time, Hezez got in touch with François Devaux and another former boy scout and victim of Preynat, Bertrand Virieux. Together the three founded La Parole Libérée to collect information and testimonies.

De Gaulmyn knew Preynat as a child and wanted to find out why nobody, the victims, their parents, or church authorities, denounced him, since they all told her they knew more or less what had been happening.

“At the time of Preynat, nobody questioned priest’s authority. This scandal will enable us to evolve and see priests as they are, normal men, and not put them on a pedestal as we have done for so long,” she said in an interview in La Croix, on the eve of the trial.

Video of Affaire Preynat-Barbarin, histoire d'un silence

Isabelle de Gaulmyn, senior editor of the French Catholic daily “La Croix” and author of “Historie d’un Silence,” speaks about the Preynat-Barbarin case (in French).

Vatican side-step

For France, a mainly Catholic country, this trial is a turning point. Most Catholics, religious as well as lay people, are relieved to see such devious behaviors are not a secret anymore. The last day of the trial, Msgr. Emmanuel Gobilliard, auxiliary bishop of Lyon, thanked Devaux for the work his association had done: “Thank you for shaking the church. It needed it.” he told him, in front of the cameras, outside the court.

The top Vatican official in charge of sex abuse cases, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who is among the accused with four close aides to Barbarin, refused to appear in court, because the Vatican invoked his diplomatic immunity.

Barbarin’s personality has only added to the hostility. A conservative archbishop who never smiles, he is known to decide everything himself and give his own opinion, ignoring the church’s official position.

“A very brilliant mind, but always excessive. People loved him or hated him,” said Henri Tincq, a journalist and parishioner in the Val de Marne, a Paris suburb, where Barbarin was chaplain of the LycéeMarcelin Berthelot.

“He was more appreciated by the parents and youngsters who liked his authority and charisma,” said OdileLerolle, who took over part of Barbarin’s responsibilities as chaplain of the lycée after he had left for Lyon.

Barbarin’s verdict will be rendered on March 7. He risks a three-year jail sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros.

[Elisabeth Auvillain is a freelance journalist in Paris.]

Pope Francis: What to expect in 2019

Pope Francis: What to expect in 2019

By Andrea Gagliarducci

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The finalization of a Curial reform process, a reshuffle in some Vatican positions, and an eventual consistory to “refill” the College of Cardinals might be among Pope Francis’ key moves in 2019.

As all eyes are set on the Vatican anti-abuse meeting, to be held Feb. 21-24, Pope Francis is in fact engaged in ongoing to reshape the Roman Curia and the College of Cardinals.

The first of the pope’s likely key moves has to do with the College of Cardinals.

After the death of Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, there is no cardinal camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church. The camerlengo is chosen by the pope only, and holds is a very delicate position, especially during a sedevacante in the papacy.

When the pope dies, or renounces his seat, “the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church has the duty of safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See, with the help of the three cardinal assistants, having sought the views of the College of Cardinals, once only for less important matters, and on each occasion when more serious matters arise,” according to the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus.

In general, the camerlengo oversees an office of the papal household that administers the property and revenues of the Holy See.

If the pope doesl not appoint a camerlengo, the cardinals will elect one at the beginning of the sedevacante.

However, Pope Francis might refrain from appointing a new camerlengo before he promulgates a long-awaited apostolic constitution on Vatican governance, Predicate evangelium, which is expected to reshape the offices of the Roman Curia.

There are rumors, in fact, that Pope Francis is going to abolish the pontifical household, including its office within the first section of the Secretariat of State.
According to a CNA source familiar with the subject, the idea has been suggested, though the shutdown of the pontifical household does not appear to be imminent.

The abolition of the pontifical household will bring some issues to be solved, since all the competencies of the pontifical household might be divided into other offices: the Sistine Chapel choir would go under the administration of the office for liturgical celebrations, the management of state visits would be placed under the protocol of the Secretariat of State, and so on. It is yet to clarified.

However, the decision would mark a major break with the past. The pontifical household is the direct legacy of the pontifical court, and its presence recalls the religious meaning behind any papal activity.

The rumors about the pontifical household also involve Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the prefect. Ganswein was appointed to the position in 2012 by Benedict XVI. He is now in his second 5-year term at the helm of the prefecture, while maintaining his position as particular secretary to the Pope Emeritus Benedict.

However, discontinuing the prefecture would prompt Pope Francis to find Ganswein a new position. One of the more widespread rumors is that Ganswein will be appointed secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to replace Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci. Bartolucci will turn the retirement age, 75, in April.
Ganswein could also be eligible to take a position within the Congregation for Divine Worship. It is noteworthy that Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect, will end his five-year mandate in November, and it is possible the composition of the congregation’s top ranks will be reshuffled at that time.

Another key move in the Roman Curia might be the shutdown of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei. Established in 1988 by St. John Paul II in order to carry on a dialogue with traditionalist parties, the commission was reformed by Benedict XVI with a 2009 instruction Universae Ecclesiae, linking the commission to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis may shut down the commission, making it an office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

If the shutdown takes place, the pope will have to find a new post for Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the commission’s president.

The shutdown of both the pontifical household and Ecclesia Dei would be part of the wider project for Curia reform.

At the moment, Praedicateevangelium, that is, the new constitution that will regulate tasks and competencies of Curia offices, is being finalized. Pope Francis will likely want to make an overall revision of the text.

However, most of the structural reforms are already in place: Pope Francis has established the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, merging there the Pontifical Councils for Laity and Family and a part of the competency of the Pontifical Academy for Life; he established the dicatery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, that absorbed the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants, Cor Unum, and for Health Care Workers.

Under Pope Francis, the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy have been set up, while the reform of the communication department led to the establishment of the Secretariat for Communication, now a dicastery.

It seems that, at the moment, the other curial offices will not be touched. Cardinal Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, is 76 now, so he has surpassed the usual retirement age. Pope Francis, however, confirmed him at the helm of the dicastery until his 80th birthday. No changes are to be expected there, then.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is without a leader since Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, the president, died in July 2018. It is still uncertain whether the pope will appoint a new president or will merge the pontifical council with another Curia office.

While undergoing these major structural changes, it likely Pope Francis will hold another consistory for the creation of new cardinals during this year.

Cardinals are eligible to vote in a conclave when they are under 80. At the moment, there are 124 cardinals who are eligible to vote in a conclave. Out of these, 59 have been created by Pope Francis in five consistories, an average of one consistory per year.

During this year, there will be 10 cardinals that will turn 80, and will not be eligible to vote in a papal conclave anymore. Out of these 10, three were made cardinals by Pope Francis.

The cardinals aging-out are: Alberto Suarez Inda, Orlando Beltran Quevedo, Edwin O’Brien, Stanislaw Dzwisiz, John Tong Hon, Sean Baptist Brady, Laurent MosengwoPasinya, ZenonGrocholewski, EdoardoMenichelli, and TelesphorePlacidusToppo.

By October there will be only 114 cardinals eligible to vote in a conclave, six less than the maximum permitted number of voting cardinals, which was set at 120 by St. Pope Paul VI – Pope Francis made an exception to this number at the last consistory.

All odds say that Pope Francis will hold another consistory, naming new cardinals during 2019. Who will receive new red hats is not foreseen.

It is noteworthy that Archbishop FilippoIannone, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and Archbishop RinoFisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, are the only heads of dicasteries without red birettas.

And it is noteworthy that Ireland’s only living representative in the College of Cardinals will age out of voting eligibility. So, the pope might consider another Irish cardinal.

However, it is also possible the pope will reward some of the periphery Churches, sticking to the point that all the Church must be represented in the College of Cardinals.

So by the end of 2019, the Roman Curia and College of Cardinals might be completely made in Pope Francis image. And it would be the first time since the beginning of his pontificate.

Updates: IMO PDP Campaign Day-2

Updates: IMO PDP Campaign Day-2


The supersonic campaign train of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State made a momentary stop at neighbourly Nwangele and Nkwerre Local Government Areas Tuesday, January 15, 2019.

And the people of the two areas were once again reassured of equity and justice by the Imo PDP gubernatorial candidate, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, CON, KSC, who unequivocally pledged to treat Nwangele and Nkwerre LGAs equally as he would treat his own Aboh Mbaise LGA.

The rallies lived up to their billings with very impressive crowd trooping out to hear what the party has in stock for them. Musical entertainment by Jubilee Entertainment, led by Mazi Chinonso Aniche, enlivened the venue, living no dull moment.

Very important party leaders, particularly those from Nwangele and Nkwerre LGAs were present. Of remarkable note was the presence of Chief Achike Udenwa, Chief Ebere Udeagu, Dr. Alex Obi, Barr. Charles Ezekwem, Sir Martin Ejiogu, Lady Maria Mbakwe, Hon. Gerald Irona, Engr. Ben Ekwueme, Chief Benjamin Azike and a host of other dignitaries.

Of course, very much present were Rt. Hon. Sir Chudi Jones Onyereri, Senatorial candidate for Imo West (Orlu Zone), Hon. Kingsley Echendu, House of Representatives candidate for Nkwerre/Isu/Nwangele/Njaba Federal Constituency and  Dr. Johnbosco Nkpadobi, candidate for Nwangele State’s Constituency candidate and Chief Casmir Ojukwu, candidate for Nkwerre State Constituency. They came with thousands of their supporters.

They all spoke in glowing terms about their readiness to join Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha to win the general elections to liberate Imo people are rebuild Imo State. They assured that PDP will win all the seats in the area that will be contested in the elections.

The rallies were held at the playgrounds St. Peter’s Church, Umuozu, Nwangele LGA and a school at Owerri Nkwoji, Nkwerre LGA. Earlier, a Town Hall Session was held at Obi Igbo in Amaigbo ancient kingdom, with the traditional rulers and leaders of the component towns in attendance.

At end of the Day-2 rallies at Nwangele and Nkwerre LGAs, the people were observed to be quite satisfied with the sincerity in the promises of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and other leaders and candidates of the party.

It is believed that their expressed satisfaction at the rallies will be translated into satisfactory voting for PDP candidates at all levels – president, governor, Senate, House of Representatives and State Assembly on February 16 and March 2. To God be the glory!

Updates: IMO PDP Campaign Day-1

Updates: IMO PDP Campaign Day-1

Hope rekindled as Imo PDP campaign takes off
…Ihedioha reiterates resolve to liberate Imo people and rebuild Imo state

The much awaited official flag off of the campaigns for the 2019 general elections by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State took off with big bang and on a more serious noteon Monday, January 14, 2019.

The event started with a Town Hall Session held at the Umuechendu Hall at Umueze Junction near Mbaitoli LGA Headquarters in Nwaorieubi, the rally proper was held at the playground of St. Mary’s Catholic Parish, Ubomiri also in Mbaitoli LGA.

The saying goes that “Charity begins at home”.  In their wisdom, the leaders of the party and organizers of the campaign rallies saw Mbaitoli LGA in Owerri Zone as home where the Campaign should take off. And how right they were! Imo State knew that Imo PDP has started campaigning for 2019 general elections.

The turn by party leaders, members and supporters was Catholic! Unavoidable traffic build up was observed along the Ubomiri axis of the very busy Orlu-Owerri Road. Fanfare reigned like harmattan, with all sorts musical sounds.

The 42 candidates ready to go for victory on behalf of Imo PDP were present. Beginning from His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, CON, KSC, the governorship candidate, through his deputy, Hon. Gerald Irona to all the three Senatorial candidates, ten House of Representatives candidates and the twenty seven House of Assembly candidates; all were on ground with their teeming supporters from across the 305 wards and 27 LGAs of Imo State. It was a carnival of good people desirous of good government and good governance.

Protocols were observed. Kolanuts were presented traditionally. Speeches by speakers were delivered. Assurances and reassurances of victory by PDP at all levels were made. Hopes were raised and the mood for real campaigns and ultimate voting and victory in the elections. All of that was amid the presence of the who-is-who of Imo politics.

The high points were found in the speeches by the party Chairman in the State, Barr. Charles Babatunde Ezekwem and the governorship candidate, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.

Delivering his speech, Barr. Ezekwem, introduced Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as a man who has credibility, capacity, and the needed competence to move the State forward. He noted that the party has presented the best candidate to the people of Imo State. He reassured that Ihedioha’s tenure as governor will be days of great glory for Imo State.

In his turn, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha felicitated with all PDP leaders members and supporters, assuring them that the PDP administration in Imo State under his watch will focus on core areas which he stated include, power, education, healthcare, infrastructure, sustainable youth and women development and empowerment, employment, payment of workers’ wages and retirees pension, training and retraining of teachers, industrialization, rural development, economic growth and general development.

Ihedioha while appreciating the ebullience of the Ezekwem-led State Working Committee (SWC), thanked all of the party leaders and members for the confidence they reposed in him. He reassured them that everybody will be appropriately carried along when by God’s grace he assumes office on May 29. He reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of the manifesto of the party as was unveiled recently.

The PDP standard bearer in Imo State seized the opportunity to campaign for the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON and his vice president candidate, Dr. Peter Obi, urging Imo people to troop out on February 16 to vote for PDP. He reminded that a vote for PDP at all levels is a vote for the restoration of Nigeria and making the country working again.

Present at the rally included but not limited to His Excellency, Chief Dr.Achike Udenwa, Engr. Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Hon. Gerald Irona, Hon. Jones Onyereri, Hon. Ezenwa Onyewuchi, Hon. Jerry Alagbaoso, Hon. Henry Nwawuba, Hon. Obinna Onwubuariri, Sir Martin Ejiogu, Nze Ray Emeaña, Lady Maria Mbakwe; Ndi Ezes and traditional rulers of Mbaitoli LGA; Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); Civil Servants and Retirees Associations;  and thousands others.

The significance and implications of the take-off of the Imo PDP campaigns are very sharp. Among other things, it is established again that the party is first to kick-start a real campaign rally process which other parties may attempt to emulate.

It further proves that PDP is the only true party in the 2019 general elections in Imo State, with a structure and organized system of doing party things.

The PDP by their very successful campaign rally take-off have proved that they are organized, focus, civil and democratic in every segment of their road to Douglas House. In character and conduct, PDP has shown capacity and capability to liberate Imo people and rebuild Imo State.

All that is left is for Imo people to vote for PDP on February 16 and March 2 for their own good and the good of their families and the State in general.



…Ihedioha reiterates resolve to liberate Imo people And Rebuild Imo State as Imo PDP Campaign Takes Off
By Remi EmekaNjoku-Ndii
With additional report from Ogu Bundu Nwadike

Current Hopelessness of Imo State

Among the comity of States in Nigeria, Imo State has lately become a laughing stock. The once thriving economy and pearl of the East currently lacks purposeful leadership and is in ruins. The last 7 years of the APC maladministration characterized by flagrant disregard to principles of rule of law and good governance has completely destroyed the foundations laid by our founding fathers, dis-articulated a thriving economy; eroded the significance of our once vibrant civil service; lowered the educational standards; chased away investors through policy inconsistencies; confiscated our lands, expropriated/ misappropriated our commonwealth and systematically impoverished and reduced our collective esteem as a people.

According to a recent report contained in the manifesto of the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2019 election, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, “the state is bedevilled with a rapid decay of public infrastructure; crippling debt burden of over N100 Billion up from N26 Billion in 2011 without any meaningful infrastructure to show for it but instead we have mounting salary and pension arrears; humongous unemployment and underemployment, despite the fact that between May 2011 and December 2017, Imo State government received over half a trillion Naira from the Federation Account excluding the bailout fund of N63.91 billion, Paris refund of N32.02 billion, over N50 billion internally generated revenue, Ecological funds running into several billions of Naira, the balance of N13.5 Billion on the State bond taken by the previous administration, the N3.3 billion  lease of Adapalm and proceeds from royalties etc.”

In addition, “from May 2011 to December 2017, Local Governments in Imo State received N276.6 billion from the Federation Account, yet there was no functional and democratically elected Local Government System from May 2011 till August 2018.”

“Human capital development has been severely stunted in the last seven years. It is shocking to note that Imo State University, formerly ranked 1st amongst state owned universities in Nigeria and 9th in overall country ranking by 2005 is currently ranked 16th and 58th respectively by the 2018 NUC ranking; and has lost its accreditation in medicine and allied subjects.”

More distressing is the fact that, “the health sector in the state is in a state of complete decay as evidenced by the fact that there is presently only one functional General Hospital in the entire state which is located at Umuguma. There are only 54 medical doctors, 4 consultants in Obstetrics, Gynaecology, Paediatric surgery and Family Medicine, 9 Pharmacists, 7 Laboratory Technicians, 172 Nurses and no Radiographer or Physiotherapists in the entire Imo State health system. Compare these figures with that of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri having 120 consultants, 240 Resident Doctors, 50 Pharmacists, 7 Radiologists, 14 Physiotherapists and 700 Nurses.”

“Suffice it to say that Imo citizens and residents have groaned in pains for far too long. There is therefore the need to take back our State and rebuild it through purposeful leadership, cleanse the pains of yesterday and restore the pride and dignity of our people. United by patriotism, we can still build a better Imo state that is anchored on transparency, fairness, equity, good governance, sincerity of purpose and dedication,” the PDP governorship candidate laments.