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(BBC) – Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a prominent US cardinal accused of sexually assaulting a teenager nearly 50 years ago.
Theodore McCarrick, 88, a former Archbishop of Washington, must also carry out “penance and prayer” pending a canonical trial, the Vatican said.
Last month US Church officials said the allegations were credible.
Mr McCarrick has said he has “no recollection” of the alleged abuse. Further allegations have since emerged.
Mr McCarrick was one of the most prominent US cardinals and is one of the most high-profile Catholic leaders to face abuse claims.
In a statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis had accepted Mr McCarrick’s resignation from the cardinalate and had ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry.
The statement also said he would be placed in seclusion “for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial”.
His resignation means the titles of Cardinal and “your eminence” are removed, America Magazine editor and Jesuit priest James Martin said on Twitter.
Mr McCarrick is alleged to have assaulted the teenager while working as a priest in New York in the early 1970s. The claims were made public in June by the current Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
He said an independent forensic agency had investigated the allegations. A review board, including legal experts, psychologists, parents and a priest, then found the allegations “credible and substantiated”.
Several more men have since said Mr McCarrick forced them to sleep with him at a beach house in New Jersey, while they studied for the priesthood as adult seminarians. One man has come forward saying he was assaulted while still a minor.
Mr McCarrick has not commented on the more recent allegations.
The alleged abuses may have taken place too long ago for criminal charges to be filed because of the statute of limitations.
It has also since emerged that financial settlements were reached in at least two cases of alleged sexual misconduct with adults involving Mr McCarrick.
They involved “allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago”, while Mr McCarrick was working as a bishop in New Jersey, bishops in the state told US media.
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