French cardinal Philippe Barbarin convicted of not reporting abuse

LYON, France -- 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.

SEE ALSO: List of clergy accused of sex abuse by Texas diocese

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.

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

"This is a turning point," he said.

SEE ALSO: Cardinal DiNardo hopeful church will regain credibility following sex abuse scandal but it may take time

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