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Canadian cardinal temporarily steps down after lawsuit alleging abuse

Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec, takes part in a meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, one of the top Roman Catholic clergymen in Canada, on Friday stepped down temporarily after he was named in a class-action lawsuit against the church that alleged sexual assault.

Local media said Lacroix's name had been added to a list of alleged perpetrators filed in a Quebec court on Thursday.

In a statement, the Quebec diocese said Lacroix, 66, had announced to co-workers he was temporarily withdrawing from his activities until the situation could be clarified.

"He categorically denies the allegations against him," it said. The lawsuit, authorized by the court in 2022, represents more than 100 people who were alleged to have been sexually assaulted by 88 priests and staff working at the Quebec diocese starting in 1940.

It also names Marc Ouellet, a former Vatican cardinal from Canada who stepped down from his position last year. Last December, Ouellet, 79, said he was suing a woman who accused him of sexual assault more than a decade ago when he was the archbishop of Quebec.

The suit includes the names of priests who served in the diocese and at educational institutions, including the Quebec seminary. Most of those named are dead.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alistair Bell)