Archbishop Philip Wilson says he hopes his decision to resign as Archbishop of Adelaide after his conviction for concealing child sexual abuse will be a "catalyst to heal pain and distress" and allow everyone in the Archdiocese, and the victims of Fr Jim Fletcher whose abuse he was found guilty of concealing, to move beyond a very difficult time.
In a letter to Adelaide Catholics, whom he has led since 2001, the 67-year-old Archbishop -- a former President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference -- wrote: "On July 20, I submitted to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, my resignation from the position of Archbishop of Adelaide.
"I have now been informed that His Holiness has accepted my resignation.
"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."
Existing arrangements for the pastoral care of the Adelaide Archdiocese remain under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ of the neighbouring diocese of Port Pirie, until the Pope appoints a new Archbishop of Adelaide.
Bishop O'Kelly said after Archbishop Wilson's resignation was announced: "These weeks have been a very testing time for so many, from anyone who has been a victim of abuse in the Church to the Archbishop himself.
"With the resignation, may there now be a time of healing for all concerned.
"May we not forget the good the Archbishop had done in so many ways while at the same time renewing our resolve to care for those who have been hurt by personnel of the Church."
Archbishop Wilson's resignation comes three days before Australia's bishops hold an extraordinary plenary meeting in Melbourne to discuss their response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which delivered its final report last December after nearly five years of gruelling public hearings and private sessions with survivors. The bishops' meeting will begin the day after Bishop Peter Comensoli of Broken Bay, north of Sydney, is installed as ninth Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia's most populous diocese.
Archbishop Wilson was born in the New South Wales Hunter Valley town of Cessnock on 2 October 1950 and was ordained a priest for his home diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in 1975. He became Bishop of Wollongong, south of Sydney, in 1996 and was transferred to Adelaide five years later, first as Coadjutor to Archbishop Leonard Faulkner -- at whose funeral he presided shortly before he was convicted -- and then as Archbishop in his own right from December 2001.
He was president of the bishops conference from 2006-12.
It was in the early years of his priesthood, as an assistant priest in East Maitland, that Fr Wilson lived in the same presbytery as Fr Fletcher but he was convicted by Magistrate Robert Stone in Newcastle Local Court in May for concealing Fletcher's abuse between the latter being charged in 2004 and his death in jail in 2006 -- by which time Archbishop Wilson was leading the Catholic community in the South Australian capital.
The Archbishop has announced that he will appeal his conviction and had said he would not resign unless the appeal failed.
A court hearing will be held on 14 August in Newcastle before Mr Stone to determine custodial arrangements for Archbishop Wilson, who has been sentenced to 12 months’ home detention, with eligibility for parole after six months.