A Roman Catholic archbishop in Australia has been charged with covering up for a pedophile priest during the 1970s.

Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson said in a statement he is disappointed that New South Wales state police had decided to charge him on Tuesday with concealing a serious child sexual abuse offence. Wilson says he will fight the charge, which carries a potential 2-year prison sentence.

The charge alleges he failed to report child sex abuse carried out by priest James Fletcher during the 1970s when they both served in the town of Maitland, north of Sydney.

Fletcher died in prison aged 65 in 2006, a year into an almost eight-year sentence for raping an altar boy between 1989 and 1991.

Wilson is to appear in court on April 30.