Pope Francis has voiced support for a French cardinal who has faced allegations of covering up cases of paedophile priests in his Lyon parish, saying he should not resign.
Francis said in an interview with French Catholic daily La Croix that a resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin “would be a mistake, an imprudence”.
“Based on the information I have, I think in Lyon, Cardinal Barbarin has taken the necessary measures and has taken things well in hand,” the pope said. “He is a brave and creative man, a missionary.”
Francis said “we must now wait for the result of the proceedings before the civil courts,” but resigning now “would amount to admitting guilt.”
Barbarin, one of the most high-ranking officials in the French Catholic Church, has been targetted by two investigations for not reporting cases of child abuses by priests to judicial authorities.
The cardinal has denied any cover-ups, but acknowledged “some mistakes in handling and appointing some priests” last month. Other church officials have been also investigated.
In the interview, Francis said that regarding cases of paedophile priests in general, for the church, “there can be no prescription” and that “tolerance must be zero”.
“Through these abuses, a priest, who is designed to drive a child to God, is destroying him. He spreads evil, resentment, pain,” the pope said.
Francis gave the one-hour interview to two La Croix’s journalists at his residence in the Vatican on May 9. The Pope was speaking in Italian.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis criticised Western powers for trying to export their own brand of democracy to countries such as Iraq and Libya without respecting indigenous political cultures.
Francis also said Europe should better integrate migrants and praised the election of the new Muslim mayor of London as an example of where this had been successful.
“Faced with current Islamist terrorism, we should question the way a model of democracy that was too Western was exported to countries where there was a strong power, as in Iraq, or Libya, where there was a tribal structure,” he said.
“We cannot advance without taking these cultures into account,” the pope said.
Francis has frequently attacked what he calls “cultural colonialism”, in which Western countries seek to impose their values on developing ones in return for financial aid.
The pope also that “ghettoising” migrants was not only wrong but misguided in the fight against terrorism.
He cited the militant attacks in Brussels in March when three suicide bombers killed 32 people, in which “the terrorists were Belgians, children of migrants, but they came from a ghetto”.
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