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Shock as father-of-two bishop quits

America's most populous Roman Catholic archdiocese is in shock at the resignation of a bishop who has admitted fathering two children.

Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala grew up in Los Angeles and was an outspoken supporter of causes dear to its huge Hispanic population.

Mr Zavala, 60, who once urged the Catholic media to report scandals such as clergy sex abuse "in a spirit of love and mercy", had his resignation accepted by Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday.

Roman Catholic canon law permits bishops to step down earlier than the normal retirement age of 75 if they are sick or otherwise unfit for office.

"This is unexpected, sad and disorienting news for many people who know and like Bishop Zavala," archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg said. "Remember, he was raised here. He has deep roots in Los Angeles and so he's very well-known here."

Mr Tamberg said he knew nothing about Mr Zavala's affair except that it involved consenting adults and that no church funds were used.

Mr Zavala was one of five auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese and was the primary pastoral and liturgical administrator for 66 churches in the San Gabriel region east of Los Angeles, Mr Tamberg said. Archbishop Jose Gomez has selected someone to handle those duties until the Vatican can appoint a replacement.

Mr Zavala informed the archbishop last month that he had fathered two children who live with their mother in another state, Archbishop Gomez said in a letter to the archdiocese's five million Catholics.

Mr Tamberg did not know the children's ages or gender but revealed that they were not twins - indicating Mr Zavala and the woman had more than a passing relationship.

"The archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family's identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy," the archbishop wrote.

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