Speculation about the future of Cardinal Sean Brady intensified last night after he told a meeting of abuse victims that he would make a decision on his future “very soon”.
Pressure has been mounting on the cardinal after he was implicated in how the Church dealt with paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth.
During meetings with abuse victims in Armagh yesterday, Cardinal Brady also said he would back a national inquiry into the scandal which has rocked the Catholic church.
Among those who met the cardinal were members of Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) group and Dublin-based abuse victim Marie Collins.
Ms Collins told Cardinal Brady he should resign, adding it could be seen as a “positive step forward” if he stepped down with honour and dignity.
John Kelly from SOCA said they had told the Cardinal he was “a lame duck leader”.
He said Cardinal Brady had been moved by what he had heard.
“We pointed out to him that the perception amongst people is that he is a lame duck leader and he has a duty to clarify and end the speculation,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I think he was very moved by that — nearly to tears in fact. He said he had been reflecting on the views and had got encouragement and support in his local diocese. We were told he would take on board what was said to him and he would make a decision very soon. The impression we got — and the fact that he had to say that — is that he may not be around for too long. I really do get that impression.
“He was deeply moved and he looked sad.”
However, Mr Kelly said he would have mixed feelings were Cardinal Brady to resign.
“It is our view that resignations don’t always solve the issue,” he added. “If he simply resigns then the issue about why he resigned goes quietly with him. We would be very careful about calling for his resignation.”
Mr Kelly said he thought the Catholic Church authorities were moving towards implementing “a just solution for the victims of the Magdalene laundry”.
He added that Cardinal Brady’s acceptance for a national inquiry into abuse was “a giant step forward”.
“The Cardinal said that this drip-feed of scandals must stop, and we told him the only way it can stop is if there is a national inquiry — both north and south of the border,” he added.
“He agreed with that, although there is a difference in the route and the path which that should take. We got the impression that he thinks it should be a voluntary exercise between the parliaments in the north and south, with the co-operation of the church.
“We felt it should be statutory, and he said that they won’t have any objections if it’s decided there will be a statutory inquiry.”
It is thought the outcome of the cardinal's reflection and consultation may be known by Pentecost Sunday at the end of May.