Pope accepts abuse scandal Cardinal's resignation

Cardinal Bernard Law, under intense fire in the sex abuse scandal, resigned today as Boston archbishop, the Vatican announced.

The Vatican said Pope John Paul II had accepted the resignation, after the two men held talks this morning. The pope named Bishop Richard Lennon an auxiliary bishop in Boston, to run the diocese temporarily.

"I am profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted my resignation as archbishop of Boston," Law said in a written statement released by the Vatican.

"It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed."

"To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness."

Abuse victims, lay members and even some priests had intensified calls for Law to resign after 18 years at the helm of the Boston archdiocese, as more cases of sordid conduct by priests unfolded from the release of Church files.

Law had been at the Vatican all week, but largely kept out of the public eye. The cardinal slipped quietly away from Boston to begin a round of meetings with top officials at the Vatican over his and his archdiocese's fate.

Law has been accused of having shuffled from parish to parish priests who were accused, often repeatedly, of sexually abusing minors.

Recent days have been marked by some of the most shocking revelations in the year-old scandal in Boston, with the release of thousands of pages of the archdiocese's personnel files.

On Thursday, it appeared that Law could also be facing questions from a grand jury about his supervision of priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

Victims have accused Law of being more mindful of his personal reputation that honestly dealing with the scandal, and now dozens of priests under his command are demanding he step down.

The Vatican may also decide whether the archdiocese, facing enormous payments in settlements with sex abuse victims, should declare bankruptcy to protect itself from creditors.

Whenever a bishop offers to step down, for age, illness or other problems, it is up to the pope to accept the offer or to ask the churchman to stay on, as the pontiff did back in April when Law also journeyed to Rome to seek out John Paul's guidance.

After Law, now 71, returned in the spring from his meeting with the pontiff, he said he was "encouraged" in his efforts to provide "the strongest possible leadership" in ensuring no child is ever abused again by a priest in his archdiocese.

But in the eight months that have ensued, the scandal worsened, with some of the most shocking revelations coming in recent days.

In recent years, sex abuse scandals have engulfed dioceses across the United States and in Ireland, France and the pope's native Poland.

But Boston has been at the epicentre of the scandals rocking the Church, because of the archdiocese's centuries-old prestige and Law's insistence that he stay at the helm.

Last month, Law, in an apology delivered during Mass in Boston's Cathedral, acknowledged his responsibility for decisions that "led to intense suffering."

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