Pope accepts resignation of archbishop Philip Wilson

The Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson outside court in April. Photo: AAP
The Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson outside court in April. Photo: AAP

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, who was convicted of concealing child sexual abuse.

In a statement issued by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the Pope had accepted the resignation on Monday evening.

"His decision to resign comes after considering his future following his conviction for failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse that occurred in the 1970s," he said.

"While the judicial process will continue, Archbishop Wilson’s resignation is the next chapter in a heartbreaking story of people who were sexually abused at the hands of Jim Fletcher and whose lives were forever changed.

"This decision may bring some comfort to them, despite the ongoing pain they bear."

He said Archbishop Wilson had been praised for his work supporting survivors of sexual abuse, however, the conviction meant that he could no longer continue in his role.

Archbishop Coleridge said Archbishop Wilson had decided that staying in his role would "continue to cause pain and distress to many, especially to survivors, and also in the Archdiocese of Adelaide".

It comes after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for the Pope to sack Archbishop Wilson.

In a statement on Monday evening, Mr Turnbull said he welcomed his resignation.

“I welcome Philip Wilson’s resignation as Archbishop of Adelaide today which belatedly recognises the many calls, including my own, for him to resign,” he said in a statement.

“There is no more important responsibility for community and church leaders than the protection of children.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had agreed with Mr Turnbull that Wilson’s position was “untenable” after the archbishop refused to resign following his decision to appeal his conviction in May for concealing the child sex offences of Hunter priest Jim Fletcher.

“If he doesn’t have the decency to resign then his superiors in the church should take action,” Mr Shorten said, less than two weeks after the two leaders expressed surprise and concern that Wilson did not resign as soon as he was convicted, and other bishops encouraged him to resign.

Abuse victim Peter Gogarty. Photo: AAP

Abuse victim Peter Gogarty. Photo: AAP

Child sexual abuse survivor Peter Gogarty earlier this month also pleaded with the Pope  to sack Archbishop Wilson with an offer to discuss the reasons why over the phone.

Mr Gogarty had included his mobile phone number in a letter to Pope Francis after Wilson refused to resign following a jail sentence for concealing Catholic priest Jim Fletcher’s child sex crimes.

Archbishop Wilson was sentenced to 12 months' detention for concealing child sex abuse between 2004 and 2006 at the hands of Fletcher in the 1970s.

He intends to appeal the conviction.