The Archbishop of York has said the Church of England treats child abuse allegations "with the utmost seriousness" as he confirmed he is setting up an independent inquiry into claims against a former cathedral dean.
Dr John Sentamu's statement comes after his predecessor, Lord Hope of Thornes, denied suggestions he covered up allegations against Robert Waddington, a former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, who died from cancer five years ago.
The Times newspaper claimed Lord Hope, who was Archbishop of York between 1995 and 2005, was twice informed about allegations against Mr Waddington, who is said to have abused a chorister in Manchester in the 1980s and a schoolboy in Australia.
The paper said the former Archbishop spoke to Mr Waddington and banned him from taking services, but did not report him to the police.
Lord Hope said in a statement on Friday: "Throughout my time as bishop and archbishop I always adhered to the statutory practices of the Church of England concerning safeguarding. I strenuously deny (and am obviously disappointed at) the suggestion that myself or my team at the time would have acted negligently in this or any other safeguarding matter."
He said the Church of England's 1999 Policy on Child Protection, which was in effect at the time but which has subsequently been reviewed, stated that there is no automatic legal obligation on the Church to refer allegations by adults to the police or social services. But he said the policy stated it was essential to consider whether children may still be at risk from the alleged abuser and, if so, report the matter to the police or social services.
He said: "In considering whether children would be at risk from Robert Waddington I decided under these guidelines that this would not be the case given his serious ill health following cancer surgery. The following year I revoked Robert Waddington's permission to officiate. He died two years later."
Dr Sentamu's office issued a statement which said: "The Archbishop of York is in the process of setting up an independent inquiry specifically into the issues surrounding the reports relating to alleged child abuse by the late Robert Waddington.
"When any church-related abuse comes to light the Church's first concern must be for the victim offering support and apologising for the abuse, acknowledging that the effects can be lifelong.
"When the inquiry makes its report the Archbishop will make its findings public. The Church of England continues to review its Child Protection and Safeguarding policies regularly to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all. Child abuse is a heinous and personally damaging crime, it is therefore incumbent on the Church to treat such matters with the utmost seriousness."