Archbishop Philip Wilson leaves the Newcastle Local Court in May. PHOTO: Peter Lorimer/AAP
Archbishop Philip Wilson leaves the Newcastle Local Court in May. PHOTO: Peter Lorimer/AAP

Archbishop resigns after child sex abuse cover-up conviction

POPE Francis has accepted the resignation of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, 27 days after he was convicted of concealing child sex abuse.

Australian Catholic Bishiops' Conference president Mark Coleridge said on Monday night that Wilson's decision came after he had "considered his future" following his conviction for failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse in the 1970s.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the news, which he said "belatedly recognises the many calls, including my own, for him to resign".

"There is no more important responsibility for community and church leaders than the protection of children," he said.

Dan Feenan, a victim of paedophile James Fletcher - whose abuse Wilson failed to report - said "It is about time".

"I would like thank Malcolm Turnbull our PM and other political and community leaders in Australia for their unwavering support in calling for Wilson to resign as his position was untenable. This will go a long way towards the healing process for myself and I'm sure other victims of James Patrick Fletcher."

Victim Peter Gogarty said: "Of course... I am pleased that people power has convinced the Archbishop to do what he should have done months ago. I urge him to accept his conviction and allow people who have suffered so much to move on."

Archbishop Philip Wilson leaves Newcastle Local Court. Picture: AAP / Darren Pateman
Archbishop Philip Wilson leaves Newcastle Local Court. Picture: AAP / Darren Pateman

Wilson had resisted calls to step down because he intends to appeal against the conviction, for which he was sentenced to 12 months' detention.

"On July 20, I submitted to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, my resignation from the position of Archbishop of Adelaide," Archbishop Wilson said in a letter to the priests, deacons, religious men and women, parish and school communities and all the people of the Archdiocese.

"I have now been informed that His Holiness has accepted my resignation," he wrote.

"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 Fr Fletcher.

"I must end this and therefore have decided that my resignation is the only appropriate step to take in the circumstances," Wilson wrote.

Mr Coleridge said Wilson had decided he could no longer continue as Archbishop "because to do so would continue to cause pain and distress to many, especially to survivors, and also in the Archdiocese of Adelaide".

News Corp Australia

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