Pope Francis has named a retired Quebec Superior Court judge to investigate allegations of sexual touching against a senior leader of the province's Roman Catholic Church.

In a Feb. 8 mandate letter, Francis asked André Denis to conduct an investigation into "the facts, circumstances and imputability" of the allegations against Cardinal Gérald Lacroix.

The allegations against Lacroix emerged in January when he was named as a perpetrator in a class-action lawsuit alleging sexual assault by clergy and staff who were under the supervision of the Quebec City archdiocese.

The 66-year-old archbishop of Quebec City has denied the allegations, which involve sexual touching of a teenager in the 1980s, and described the claim as "unfounded."

Denis says he's gathering whatever information he can on the alleged events and plans to submit a detailed report to the Pope as soon as possible.

The class action was authorized by the Quebec Superior Court in 2022 and covers anyone who was sexually assaulted by clergy or lay personnel in the diocese, dating back to 1940.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2024.