Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson — the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse.
“His decision to resign comes after considering his future following his conviction for failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse that occurred in the 1970s,” the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said in a statement.
“While the judicial process will continue, Archbishop Wilson’s resignation is the next chapter in a heartbreaking story of people who were sexually abused at the hands of Jim Fletcher and whose lives were forever changed.
“This decision may bring some comfort to them despite the ongoing pain they bear.”
The statement also said Wilson had “decided that his conviction means he can no longer continue as archbishop because to do so would continue the cause pain and distress to many, especially to survivors and also in the Archdiocese of Adelaide”.
In May, Wilson was found guilty of concealing sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 12 months’ detention earlier this month.
‘Too much pain in my maintaining office’: Wilson
In a media release from the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, Wilson said he hoped and prayed that his decision would be a “catalyst to heal pain and distress”.
“On July 20 I submitted to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, my resignation from the position of Archbishop of Adelaide,” he said.
“I have now been informed that His Holiness has accepted my resignation.
“Though my resignation was not requested, I made this decision because I have become increasingly worried at the growing level of hurt that my recent conviction has caused within the community.
“I had hoped to defer this decision until after the appeal process had been completed.
“However, there is just too much pain and distress being caused by my maintaining the office of Archbishop of Adelaide, especially to the victims of Father Fletcher.
“I must end this and therefore have decided that my resignation is the only appropriate step to take in the circumstances.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed Wilson’s resignation.
“I welcome Philip Wilson’s resignation as Archbishop of Adelaide today which belatedly recognises the many calls, including my own, for him to resign,” he said in a statement.
“There is no more important responsibility for community and church leaders than the protection of children.”
–ABC, with AAP