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Pope accepts Boston cardinal’s resignation

Vatican City, Dec. 13 (Reuters): Pope John Paul accepted Cardinal Bernard Law’s resignation today as the embattled prelate begged forgiveness for his handling of a clergy sexual abuse scandal that caused the worst crisis in US church history.

“To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness,” Law said in a statement issued by the Vatican minutes, after he met the Pope.

Law, who said he hoped his action would lead to the “healing, reconciliation and unity” desperately needed in Boston, became the highest ranking Catholic churchman to leave under a cloud since 1995.

Law had first handed in his resignation in April but the pope rejected it. Vatican sources said the pope finally agreed to accept Law’s resignation when he realised that the situation in Boston had become untenable and that Law’s presence was damaging the credibility of the Church. The Vatican said the pope had named a special administrator to run the archdiocese that has been caught up in the vast clergy sexual abuse scandal until a new archbishop is appointed.

The Vatican said the post, known as an Apostolic Administrator, would be held by Bishop Richard Gerard Lennon, currently an assistant bishop in Boston.

While Law, 71, is no longer archbishop of Boston he will retain the rank of cardinal and will be eligible until he turns 80 to enter a conclave to elect a new pope after John Paul's death.

Quiet departure

In his statement, Law gave no specific indication of what he would do but added: “The particular circumstances of this time suggest a quiet departure. Please keep me in your prayers.”

There had been talk in the church that Law would be found a job in the Vatican but others had advised that he should keep a low profile.

For the past year, Law has come under growing pressure to resign over his handling of the scandal, which erupted with the release of files in the case of defrocked priest and convicted paedophile John Geoghan. The files showed that Law knew of accusations against Geoghan but chose to transfer him from parish to parish without warning parents.

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