Reuters International

File photo of French Archbishop Philippe Barbarin while attending a Good Friday mass in Saint-Jean Cathedral in Lyon, France, March 25, 2016. REUTERS/Robert Pratta/File Photo

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LYON, France (Reuters) - Prosecutors have dropped an investigation of allegations that the archbishop of Lyon, one of France's top Catholic clerics, covered up acts of paedophilia by a priest under his authority in the central French city.

The prosecutors confirmed on Monday they had dropped the investigation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, with no charges being brought.

Barbarin was questioned earlier this year for more than 10 hours over the activities of a paedophile priest, Father Bernard Preynat, in the early 1990s and why they had not been reported to the civil authorities.

Authorities placed Preynat under judicial investigation in January for his alleged sexual abuse of Catholic boy scouts in 1991. Preynat's lawyer said he had admitted to sexually abusing the boys. He has been released from custody on bail.

"Never, never, never have I covered up the least paedophile act," Barbarin had said at a news conference in the southern French town of Lourdes in March.

But in a statement in April, he had acknowledged "errors in the management and appointment of some priests".

"We're very disappointed, shocked and a little surprised," Francois Devaud, a spokesman for the plaintiffs, told Reuters.

Sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests first made headlines in the U.S. in 2002, when a newspaper investigation revealed U.S. bishops had moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them.

Similar scandals have since been discovered around the world, and the church has paid tens of millions of dollars in compensation.

(Reporting by Catherine Lagrange in Lyon, writing by Michel Rose in Paris, editing by Richard Lough, Larry King)

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