Francois Devaux, the president of the association "La Parole Liberee" (Lift the Burden of Silence), a group of victims, answers reporters at the Lyon court house, central France, Thursday, March 7, 2019. The court has found top Catholic official Cardinal Philippe Barbarin guilty for failing to report to justice accusations against a pedophile priest. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

The Latest: Alleged victims hail church abuse verdict

March 07, 2019 - 2:17 am

LYON, France (AP) — The Latest on a church sex abuse trial in France (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

Alleged victims of a pedophile priest say the conviction of a French cardinal for failing to report the accusations to judicial authorities is a great victory for child protection and a powerful message to the church.

Francois Devaux, the president of the association "La Parole Liberee" (Lift the Burden of Silence), a group of victims of the Rev. Bernard Preynat said "we see that no one is above the law. We have been heard by the court. This is the end of a long path."

In a surprise verdict, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was found guilty Thursday and given a six-month suspended sentence.

Devaux added: "This is a victory that sends a strong signal to lots of victims and a signal to the church as well."

A lawyer for some of Preynat's alleged victims, Yves Sauvayre, called the verdict "historic."

"This is a turning point," he said.

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10:50 a.m.

The lawyer for a top Catholic official who has been found guilty of failing to report to judicial authorities accusations against a pedophile priest says his client will appeal the verdict.

Jean-Felix Luciani, lawyer for Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, said "this is a decision that is not fair at the juridical level."

Speaking of his "disappointment" at the six-month suspended prison sentence, he said, "We hope that at the next step, justice will be done," suggesting he was hoping for an acquittal in the appeal.

Barbarin was not present at the court in Lyon for the verdict Thursday.

Five other defendants were acquitted. Alleged victims claim church hierarchy covered up for the Rev. Bernard Preynat for years.

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10:15 a.m.

A French court has found top Catholic official Cardinal Philippe Barbarin guilty for failing to report to justice accusations against a pedophile priest.

In a surprise decision Thursday in France's most important church sex abuse trial, the Lyon court handed Barbarin a six-month suspended prison sentence for not reporting the facts in the period between July 2014 and June 2015. 

The Rev. Bernard Preynat's alleged victims said Barbarin and other church officials covered up for him for years, but the statute of limitations had expired on some charges and even the victims had expected that the cardinal would be acquitted.

The prosecutor had also argued against convicting, saying there were no grounds to prove legal wrongdoing.

The priest has confessed to abusing Boy Scouts in the 1970s and 80s and will be tried separately.

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8:45 a.m.

A French court is expected to acquit a cardinal and five other defendants accused of protecting a pedophile priest at the end of France's most important church sex abuse trial.

The Lyon court will deliver its verdict on Thursday morning.

The Rev. Bernard Preynat's alleged victims said church hierarchy covered up for him for years. But by the time the four-day trial reached court in Lyon last January, the statute of limitations had expired on some charges.

Even the prosecutor argued against convicting Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and other church officials, saying there were no grounds to prove legal wrongdoing.

Barbarin faces up to three years in prison and fines if convicted.

The priest has confessed to abusing Boy Scouts in the 1970s and 80s and will be tried separately.