Dec. 4 (UPI) -- The Vatican said Wednesday Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Catholic Bishop Richard J. Malone, the leader of the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., which has been rattled by accusations of sex abuse for two years.
Malone's resignation comes two years before his 75th birthday, a time when bishops typically resign under canon law, but more than a year after local Catholic leaders demanded his removal -- saying he poorly handled accusations of clergy sex abuse.
"I have met with many survivors of child sexual abuse and felt deeply their anguish, which words and gestures alone are inadequate to soothe," Malone said in a statement released by the diocese Wednesday.
"I have acknowledged on many occasions the mistakes I have made in not addressing more swiftly personnel issues that, in my view, required time to sort out complex details pertaining to behavior between adults."
The Vatican said the pope accepted Malone's resignation. The two met face-to-face in Rome last month, during which Malone requested early retirement.
Officials said Albany Diocese Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger will now oversee duties in Buffalo until a permanent replacement is named.
The Vatican earlier sent Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio on a fact-finding mission to Buffalo to review Malone's conduct.
"Inevitably, some will surmise that my decision is the result of the recently-completed Apostolic Visitation, carried out by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio at the behest of the Holy See," Malone said in his statement Wednesday. "While I was made aware of the general conclusions of the report, which were a factor in my discernment, my decision to retire early was made freely and voluntarily."
Malone said he will continue to serve as bishop emeritus and take on any new role given by the next bishop.
The Buffalo Diocese has already paid $17.5 million to more than 100 victims connected with the abuse scandal, which has produced more than 200 lawsuits.