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Australian archbishop resigns over hiding child abuse

By Danielle Haynes
Archbishop Philip Wilson resigned Monday after initially saying he would only step aside from some duties after being convicted of concealing child abuse. File Photo by Peter Lorimer/EPA-EFE
Archbishop Philip Wilson resigned Monday after initially saying he would only step aside from some duties after being convicted of concealing child abuse. File Photo by Peter Lorimer/EPA-EFE

July 30 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Monday accepted the resignation of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson less than a month after he was sentenced to a year in detention for failing to report decades-old child abuse allegations.

Wilson was the most senior Catholic official to be convicted on the charge. Magistrate Robert Stone sentenced the 67-year-old on July 3, but delayed a hearing to determine whether he could be given home confinement.

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Wilson "decided that his conviction means he can 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," a statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was among a number of political and religious leaders who called on Wilson to step down from his post.

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

Wilson was convicted in May for concealing the abuse of pedophile James Fletcher during the 1970s. Fletcher was convicted in 2004 and died in prison.

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Stone said Wilson failed to act because "he wanted to protect the church and its image." Wilson initially said he would step aside from his duties but wouldn't resign.

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Dan Feenan, a victim of Fletcher, said "it is about time" for Wilson to resign.

"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," he said.

Wilson began his term as archbishop in 2001, replacing retiring Leonard Faulkner. Prior to that, Wilson was bishop of Wollongong for five years and served as president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference from 2006 to 2010.

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