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Cardinal Joseph Rigali has stepped down as the Archbishop of Philadelphia. Matt Rourke/AP

Pope accepts Cardinal's resignation after clerical abuse scandal Philadelphia

It’s not just in Ireland, you know. Cardinal Justin Rigali steps down as Archbishop of Philadelphia over sex abuse.

POPE BENEDICT XVI has accepted the resignation of one of the United States’ 33 archbishops, amid accusations that his diocese attempted to cover up clerical child abuse.

AP reported that Cardinal Justin Frances Rigali had offered his resignation in April of last year – on his 75th birthday – as is customary under Catholic doctrine.

While it is customary for bishops to continue in their roles until successors have been arranged – ordinarily for years at at time – it had recently been rumoured that the Vatican would move to make a quicker appointment, in light of growing concerns over alleged abuse there.

Rigali had been under fire for several years over the abuse in his diocese, particularly since 2005 when his diocese’s was battered by a grand jury investigation.

That investigation found that two previous Cardinals in the archdiocese had covered up systematic sex abuse there – moving known abusers to other parishes in the diocese instead of taking them off duty.

While Rigali decided to defrock the priests who were later confirmed as abusers, he came under increasing public fire for his staunch defence of his two predecessors.

In February, a second grand jury investigation accused Rigali of failing to stop the sexual abuse of even more children – finding that as many as 37 priests in his diocese had been credible abused of inappropriate behaviour towards minors since 2005.

Rigali will now enter retirement but will remain a Cardinal, and therefore eligible to vote in any elections for a new Pontiff for as long as he is alive himself.

He has been succeeded by Charles Joseph Chaput, who is now likely to be made a Cardinal too.

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