POPE Francis has accepted the resignation of Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson, the most senior Catholic cleric ever to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.
The 67-year-old was convicted in May of failing to tell police about abuse by another priest, James Fletcher, despite knowing of the crimes for over 40 years.
Wilson, who oversaw the Archdiocese of Adelaide, was spared jail in July and instead sentenced to six months of home detention due his poor health and advanced age.
He had earlier refused to resign, despite his trial at Newcastle Local Court revealing he was told about the abuse in 1976 by two victims - one of them an altar boy who made the revelation at confession.
— Mike Smithson (@mikesmithson7) July 30, 2018
Last week, he said he intended to appeal his conviction and would only resign if it failed.
However, the Vatican made the announcement on Monday morning that Wilson had, in effect, been sacked by Pope Francis.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who earlier this month urged the Pontiff to sack Wilson, said he welcomed the decision.
"[Wilson's resignation] belatedly recognises the many calls, including my own, for him to resign," said Mr Turnbull.
"There is no more important responsibility for community and church leaders than the protection of children."
Malcolm Turnbull: “I welcome Philip Wilson’s resignation as Archbishop of Adelaide today which 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.”
— Tom McIlroy (@TomMcIlroy) July 30, 2018
The resignation comes just two days after the Pope stripped Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington DC, of his rank as cardinal over allegations of child sex abuse.
McCarrick had been accused of sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians decades ago.
The Vatican said on Saturday that Pope Francis accepted McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals and ordered him to live "a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial".
Archbishop Wilson said in a statement that he hoped his own resignation would help heal pain and distress in the Archdiocese of Adelaide.
"I must end this and therefore have decided that my resignation is the only appropriate step to take in the circumstances", he said.