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Growing sex abuse scandal rocks French Catholic Church

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Cardinal Barbarin at the centre of a sex abuse scandal in France. Photo: AFP
10:17 CET+01:00
A French cardinal at the centre of a paedophile scandal came under renewed pressure on Tuesday when another witness accused him of covering up sex abuse and the French prime minister told him to take responsibility for his actions.

Bishops from across France met in the sanctuary of Lourdes for their annual behind-closed-doors conference on Tuesday, just as a paedophile rocked the catholic church and beyond.

At the centre of the scandal is Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is being sued as part of an alleged cover-up of sex abuse on boy scouts by a priest in the late 1980s. On Tuesday he categorically denied covering up for any sex abuse.

On Tuesday Barbarin was hit by new allegations that he had covered up for a second priest that was accused of sexual abuse in 2009 relating to incidents that had occurred years earlier.

In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper, the victim said Barbarin was aware of the abuse the priest had carried out, but did nothing.

“It's not for me to be ashamed,” said the man now aged in his forties. “I do not act out of revenge…but out of a desire to contribute as people are becoming aware of what happened.

“When someone is aware of such facts, they must act, especially if you have the responsibility. Cardinal Barbarin had that power to act.”

On Tuesday French Prime Minister Manuel Valls weighed into the growing scandal and urged a Barbarin to "take responsibility" in the case which has shocked France.

"The only message I have, without ... taking the place of the Church, of the judges -- because an investigation is underway -- is that he must take responsibility, speak and act," Valls told BFM TV.

Asked whether he meant Cardinal Philippe Barbarin should resign, Valls said: "It is his responsibility, but he must also understand the pain."

"I expect not only words, but acts," the prime minister added.

Barbarin is one of several senior officials being sued for the alleged cover-up.

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He is accused of being aware that priest Bernard Preynat had been sexually abusing young boy scouts between 1986 and 1991.

Preynat was charged in January after victims came forward, and prosecutors say he has admitted wrongdoing.

On Monday it was revealed that Preynat's victims had written to the Vatican demanding an audience with Pope Francis.

For his part Barbarin said on Tuesday he had "never covered up paedophilia" and has asked for people to allow justice to take its course and for his presumption of innocence to be respected.

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