Pope accepts abuse scandal Irish prelate's resignation



Pope accepts abuse scandal Irish prelate`s resignation Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI on Monday accepted the resignation of Irish prelate Richard Anthony Burke, archbishop of the Nigerian diocese of Benin City, accused of molesting a teenaged girl, the Vatican said.

Burke, in a statement to the weekly Irish Catholic, voiced "deepest sorrow for my inappropriate, irresponsible and repeatedly sinful conduct," but denied having abused a minor.

"I take full responsibility for my actions. I wish to express my deepest sorrow for my inappropriate, irresponsible and repeatedly sinful conduct," he wrote.

"The reason for my resignation is that I have been unfaithful to my oath of celibacy," he said, adding that his relationship with Dolores Atwood began when she was 21 and he was 40.

Atwood lodged a complaint against Burke reportedly saying that he had begun abusing her when she was a 14-year-old patient in hospital.

"I have never, ever, in my life -- in any way -- sexually abused a child. This is still my position. It is the truth," Burke said.

Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, was rocked by two successive reports last year revealing widespread abuse mainly of boys by priests going back decades, coupled with the Church hierarchy's complicity in covering it up.

The pope has earlier accepted the resignations of four Irish bishops or auxiliary bishops involved in the scandal.

Vatican to open probe on Irish Church sex abuse in autumn

The Vatican said it would launch a promised probe in the autumn into the paedophile priest scandal that has rocked the Irish Catholic Church.

The team will include four "apostolic visitors (who) will set out to explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims," the Vatican said in a statement.

The probe, which Pope Benedict XVI announced in March in a landmark letter to Irish Catholics, is intended to help the Irish Church "respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors," the statement said.

It will begin with the archdioceses of Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly and Tuam, and then be extended to other dioceses, the Vatican said.

A parallel investigation of Irish seminaries will "accompany the process of renewal of houses of formation for the future priests of the Church in Ireland," it said.

The "apostolic visitors" named by the pope are Westminster Archbishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Boston Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, and the archbishops of Toronto and Ottawa, Thomas Christopher Collins and Terrence Thomas Prendergast, the statement said.

The Irish Bishops' Conference welcomed news of the investigation, saying it was "one more important step on the path to healing, reparation and renewal in the Church in Ireland" and promising to cooperate fully.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said it was an "important element" in the process of addressing "the truth of a dark moment" in the history of the Irish Catholic Church.

PTI