One of France's best-known cardinals must defend charges that he failed to denounce a priest allowed to keep his job despite admitting to acts of pedophilia.

The Conference of Bishops of France said on Saturday that there would be "complete cooperation" by Cardinal Philippe Barbarin.

Barbarin and five others were handed preliminary charges last week by the Lyon prosecutor's office for failure to denounce a crime and endangering others over a case that dated to 1991 — before Barbarin was named cardinal of Lyon. He has said he was convinced the priest had reformed in 2007-2008, when they met, and allowed him to stay on. The priest was removed last year after victims, now adults, stepped forward.

Barbarin denies ever "covering up" pedophilia acts by priests.