Pope accepts Irish bishop's resignation
Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Northern Irish bishop Seamus Hegarty, the Vatican said Wednesday, with Irish media reporting the move was due to a terminal illness.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he had "no information" on the precise reasons for the resignation of Bishop of Derry Hegarty, which comes three years before he reaches the official retirement age of 75.
Hegarty headed the diocese of Raphoe between 1982 and 1994 and had faced persistent questions over his handling of a wave of clerical abuse scandals stretching back decades that have rocked the Catholic Church.
In 2009, he had voiced concern about investigations launched against 17 priests in his diocese. Campaigners have called for punishment of paedophile priests but also of bishops who covered up their crimes.
Benedict has condemned the crimes and expressed shame over the scandals.
Seven of Ireland's 26 dioceses are now without a bishop because of a series of resignations that have come in the wake of the abuse scandals.
The Catholic Church makes no jurisdictional distinction between the Republic of Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland.
© 2011 AFP