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By Philip Pullella

Canadian Cardinal Ouellet sues over accusations of sexual assault

FILE PHOTO: Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet leads a procession at the start of a mass at the Santa Maria in Transpontina church in Rome March 10, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Hanna/File Photo

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet on Tuesday said he was suing a woman who accused him of sexual assault more than a decade ago when he was the archbishop of Quebec.

Ouellet, now a prominent Vatican official, was named in August in a class action lawsuit against the Quebec Catholic archdiocese that alleged cases of sexual assault by some 88 clergy and staff working there starting in 1940.

He denied the accusations at the time and again in a statement announcing the lawsuit on Tuesday.

In the filing in the Quebec Superior Court in August, an anonymous complainant alleged that Ouellet had inappropriately touched her and had made comments that made her feel uncomfortable between 2008 and 2010, when she was an intern in her 20s in the archdiocese.

The Vatican said at the time that following a preliminary internal review of the accusations, Pope Francis had decided there was insufficient evidence to open a Church investigation into the allegations.

"I have never been guilty of these reprehensible behaviours, much less of those alleged against other members of the clergy cited in the class action," Ouellet said in Tuesday's statement. "This inappropriate association, intentionally constructed and widely spread for improper purposes, must be denounced."

Ouellet said he was taking legal action for defamation before the courts of Quebec "in order to prove the falsity of the allegations made against me and to restore my reputation and honour."

Victims of sexual abuse are entitled to "just compensation for the harm they have suffered," he said, adding that he was innocent and would donate any financial compensation he may receive to support "the fight against the sexual abuse of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada."

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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