Presumption of innocence applies

Presumption of innocence applies

Pope Francis has explained his decision not to accept the resignation of Cardinal Barbarin, who was convicted of abuse cover-ups. He thus confirmed statements of the cardinal. He could not "morally accept" the resignation.

Pope Francis "morally could not accept" the resignation of the archbishop of Lyon because of the presumption of innocence, the church leader told journalists traveling with him on Sunday on a flight back from Morocco. "Let's wait for the verdict of the second instance and see what happens."

Francis at the same time condemned a "superficial condemnation by media". "What does secular jurisprudence say? When a case is open, the presumption of innocence applies. It is possible that someone is not innocent, but there is this presumption."

Barbarin offered to resign

The French cardinal was on 7. March was given a six-month suspended sentence for failing to report a priest who allegedly sexually abused numerous minors between the 1970s and 2015.

Barbarin repeatedly stressed his innocence and appealed the verdict, but offered his resignation to the pope in mid-March. Francis did not accept it, leaving the cardinal to act. The latter then transferred the leadership of the archdiocese of Lyon to the vicar general.

Barbarin had explained in an interview after the meeting with Francis that the pope had told him, "When a verdict is challenged, the presumption of innocence applies. Therefore, if I accept your resignation, I acknowledge that you are guilty. I can not." Francis now confirmed this in person.

Barbarin has been archbishop of France's second-largest diocese since 2002. Unlike in Germany, in France there is a criminal obligation to report cases of sexual abuse to the judiciary.

Praise for Merkel's European policy

Pope Francis has praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) for her European policy. If the continent wants to be "the mother of Europe and not the grandmother," intelligent investment in education is needed, he said. That's not his idea, "that's what Chancellor Merkel said," he told journalists traveling with him on the flight back from Morocco on Sunday. Merkel is putting the brakes on emigration "not with power, but with generosity, with investment in education and the economy," the pope said.

Francis warned against the stoking of fears by populists, recalling the rise of Nazism. Adolf Hitler came to power "with promises and fears," "and we know the result," the pope told journalists traveling with him on a flight back from Morocco on Sunday.

Fear is "the usual preaching of populism," Francis said. Even many well-intentioned people would be caught by it. At the same time, he said, fear is "the beginning of dictatorships". Those who sow fear reap "a cruel harvest"; history teaches this.

Signs of Christian-Muslim dialogue

Pope Francis sees the step he took with Moroccan King Mohammed VI as a "step forward". Jerusalem Appeal signed in Rabat as an example of Christian-Muslim dialogue. They took that step, he said, as "brothers in faith who suffer when they do not yet see this city of hope as universal as we all wish it to be – Jews, Muslims and Christians," the pope told traveling journalists Sunday evening on a flight back from his two-day trip to Morocco.

He called the Jerusalem Declaration "a wish, a call to the religious brotherhood that this city symbolizes.". All believers are citizens of Jerusalem.

The Catholic Church leader and the Moroccan monarch signed a joint appeal on Saturday on Jerusalem's special status. The city must remain the heritage of humanity and the symbol of peaceful coexistence, especially for the three monotheistic religions, it says. To that end, he said, Jerusalem's "multi-religious character, spiritual dimension and special cultural identity" must be protected and promoted.

Jerusalem is considered a holy city by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Vatican also sees Israeli claim to all of Jerusalem as capital as obstacle to peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. After U.S. President Donald Trump announced in December 2017 that he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Francis made an "urgent appeal" to respect the status quo and United Nations resolutions.

Pope prays for peace and strength for Algeria

Francis has addressed Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika with a personal message. Praying for peace and strength for the entire population and calling down God's blessings on the nation, the church leader wrote in a greeting telegram to Bouteflika.

The Pope crossed Algerian airspace on Sunday evening on his way back from Morocco. Traditionally, he then sends a greeting to each country's head of state.

In Algeria, tens of thousands again took to the streets against Bouteflika on Friday. Beyond a resignation of the 82-year-old president, many call for a fundamental change of system.

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Christina Cherry
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