Making rare remarks about a high-profile abuse case, Pope Francis on Sunday said it was "important" that a French cardinal who had been convicted of covering up abuse be presumed innocent while he appeals his case.

"Maybe he is not innocent, but there is the presumption," Francis told reporters during a news conference on the papal plane after his two-day trip to Morocco.

Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon and one of France's leading Catholic figures, three weeks ago was convicted of not reporting abuse to authorities. The conviction forced Francis to make a choice. Barbarin submitted his resignation after his conviction. He met soon after with the pontiff in the Vatican. But Francis, in a surprise move, did not accept the resignation. Barbarin, in turn, chose to step away from his post for an unspecified period of time.

The aftermath of Barbarin's case shows how the Catholic Church — at a time when it is trying to improve its response to the sexual abuse crisis — is facing new tests in how it responds to court decisions and how it chooses to discipline figures who are investigated or convicted in the secular justice system.

Washington Post