Pius Ncube, a fierce critic of Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, has resigned as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo after a sex scandal involving a married woman.
State television repeatedly screened images in July purporting to show Bishop Ncube, 60, in bed with Rosemary Sibanda, who worked for his diocese. They are believed to have been filmed by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). State media were reportedly preparing to publish more damaging allegations.
The bishop, who has called for the people of Zimbabwe to rise up against President Mugabe, is fighting a Z$20bn (£80,000) lawsuit brought by Mrs Sibanda's husband, Onesimus.
A statement from the Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had accepted Bishop Ncube's resignation. There were suggestions that the Vatican had asked him to resign, but Bishop Ncube's statement appeared to deny that. "I wrote to the Pope within days of what was obviously a state driven, vicious attack not just on myself, but by proxy on the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. In order to spare my fellow bishops and the body of the Church any further attacks, I decided [resignation] was the best course of action," his statement said.
President Mugabe has revelled in the scandal. At several public gatherings he berated the bishop as an "adulterer and a liar".
Bishop Ncube said he would remain a bishop and vowed to continue speaking out against human rights abuses.
Some activists believe he will enter full-time politics. But his moral authority has been severely eroded.