'The highest-profile Catholic cleric to be embroiled in a paedophile scandal in France has denied in court that he failed to report a priest who abused Scouts in the 1980s and 90s.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, one of the most prominent Catholic figures in France, is accused with five others of helping to cover up abuse.
At the opening of a trial on Monday, Barbarin appeared to pray as the judge read the accusations against the defendants.
“I never sought to hide, much less cover up these horrible acts,” Barbarin told the court in Lyon, reading from a written statement.
Barbarin, 68, an arch-conservative, could face up to three years in prison and a fine of €45,000 (£40,000) if convicted.
Another defendant, Pierre Durieux, the archbishop’s former chief of staff, said the defendants were the subject of a “witchhunt”.
The Catholic church in France has been convulsed in recent years by abuse allegations, which emerged after a global move by victims to come forward with evidence.
The scandal of abuse and its cover-up has erupted in many countries, including the US, Australia, Chile, Ireland and Germany, causing enormous damage to the church’s standing.'
Read more: French cardinal goes on trial accused of helping cover up child abuse
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