Pope Francis explained why he did not accept, for the moment, the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, France, who was given a suspended sentence for “not denouncing” pedophile acts, while twice the prosecution argued his release. ZENIT’s Anita Bourdin, Director of the French Edition, was on the Papal Flight for Pope in Morocco.
The Holy Father was answering a question of the French press on Sunday, March 31, 2019, during the flight from Rabat, Morocco, to Rome.
In fact, Cardinal Barbarin tendered his resignation to Pope Francis on Monday, March 18, but the Pontiff refused it. Part of public opinion — including Catholic opinion — and victims’ associations, did not understand the reason for Pope Francis’ decision, hence the question.
Presumption of Innocence
The Pope referred especially to respect for the “presumption of innocence,” which is de rigueur when a sentence is appealed. In regard to Cardinal Barbarin, “he, a man of the Church, handed his resignation. Morally, I cannot accept it because, juridically, also in classic world jurisprudence, there is the presumption of innocence while the cause remains open. He has appealed and the case is open,” explained the Pope, who did not wish to presume the future. “Then, when the second court pronounces its sentence, we’ll sew what happens. However, one must always have present [in mind] the presumption of innocence,” he added.
The Holy Father objected to the “media’s superficiality.” “It’s important because that goes against a superficial media condemnation. ‘Ah, he did this.’ However, look what world jurisprudence says: as long as the cause is open, there is the presumption of innocence. Perhaps he isn’t innocent, but it’s necessary to presume it.”
Pope Francis referred to a case in Spain, “when a media condemnation ruined the life of priests who were then judged innocent.” “Think twice before pronouncing a media condemnation,” he urged.
“I don’t know if I’ve answered . And he [Cardinal Barbarin] preferred, honestly, to say: “I withdraw; I’ll take a voluntary leave and leave the Vicar General to run the diocese until the court’s final sentence.”