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France: card. Barbarin (Lyon) gathers all the priests of the diocese. New measures to prevent and fight paedophilia

Yesterday, Lyon hosted a “summit” with all of the 220 priests of the diocese to take stock of the fight against paedophilia and sexual abuse within the Church, and find new measures to prevent paedophilia, listen to the victims, and take action. The meeting was promoted by cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who in the last few months has been at the centre of an investigation for the “omitted report” of cases of paedophilia that seem to have been committed by two priests in the diocese. In taking the floor yesterday – a release from the diocese of Lyon states –, the cardinal admitted that “the diocese had made mistakes in the handling and appointment of some priests”. Archbishop Barbarin then highlighted “the importance for victims of sexual abuse committed by priests to see their right to truth and justice acknowledged. Victims – Barbarin said – must be able to rely on the diocese’s listening to and supporting them”. In addition, the cardinal confirmed that “the diocese trusts justice and is confident that the truth will be established in all those cases in which it was not”. However, the cardinal also repeated that “he trusts priests who accomplish their mission with great dedication and are loyal to the state of their lives”. In the wake of the nationwide initiatives that have been recently taken by the French bishops, the diocese of Lyon too implemented a number of “measures” at the end of yesterday’s meeting. The first one is a telephone number (0033.04.78 814 845), open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, for victims of sexual abuse. The telephone will be manned by professionals: clinical psychologists, who will listen to the victims’ stories in a totally confidential manner, keeping the victims anonymous, and, if they wish, they can make an appointment and start a tailor-made support process. If needed, victims may be helped through to the submission of their reports. Then, the diocese set up an “expert committee” with a magistrate, a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, a doctor, a canonist, a social worker and two parents, who, along with the general vicar of the diocese, will review and investigate suspicious cases of priests. Then, the priests decided to start working at strengthening priests’ training, upgrading the prevention and support of priests, and laying down new criteria on the appointment of and admission of priests. During the meeting, the story of Vincent Berger, victim of father Bernard Preynat in 1979/1981 when he was a scout, was listened to as well.

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