Pope Francis accepts Cardinal Sean Brady resignation: Leader of Catholic Church in Ireland steps down
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The senior churchman whose final years as a clerical leader were dogged by abuse scandals, announced plans to step down on age grounds last month after turning 75, the standard retirement age in the church.
Archbishop Eamon Martin will take over the role as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland - the 116th man to fill the role.
"I am looking forward to retirement and, no doubt, it will take me some time to get used to it, but it will be good to have more time for family, friends and to follow the football," Cardinal Brady said.
The churchman faced repeated calls over the last few years from clerical sex abuse survivors to stand down.
Last month Pope Francis promised to hold bishops accountable for the protection of children and begged forgiveness from victims after he celebrated a Mass with six survivors at the Vatican.
One of the six, Irish woman Marie Kane, said she asked the pontiff to remove Cardinal Brady from his post because of the way he handled abuse allegations.
In a farewell message Cardinal Brady said he recalled the Pope's motto "miserando atque eligendo" which he said "challenges and inspires me with its message of God having mercy and at the same time choosing us, despite our sinfulness".
"It reminds me that I too need to say sorry and to ask forgiveness. And I do so again, now," Cardinal Brady said.
"At the same time, Pope Francis' motto inspires me to trust in the mercy of God and to pray for the strength to do always as Jesus would have me do."
Cardinal Brady was heavily criticised for swearing two victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth to secrecy during an internal church inquiry in 1975 into the abuse of two children.
Their evidence was never handed over to police, allowing Smyth to continue abusing children before he was finally jailed in 1994.
Last December an investigation by church watchdog the National Board for Safeguarding Children said Cardinal Brady made a "commendable decision to gather and document whatever information was available" about abuse allegations in his own archdiocese on taking up his role as Primate of All Ireland in 1996.
At the time he said he was truly sorry for the suffering of victims.
Although he has also apologised to the victims of Smyth, he previously said he would not resign over the affair.
Cardinal Brady led the church in Ireland for more than 17 years during which time a series of investigations exposed shocking levels of clerical abuse.
His successor, Archbishop Martin, is a 52-year-old Derry-born former teacher, who was named as Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh early in 2013.
In 2010, at the height of pressure on Cardinal Brady over his handling of the Smyth case, the church leader asked Pope Benedict to ease his workload by appointing a coadjutor bishop in the Archdiocese of Armagh.
Archbishop Martin was only formally put in place as the Cardinal's assistant 16 months ago.
The clerics made statements after mass in St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh this morning.
The Archbishop described his predecessor as a gentle and humble man who is never fully comfortable in the limelight.
"This is not just my day. It is a day for us to recognise the years of service which you have given to the Church in Armagh and beyond," Archbishop Martin said.
"On behalf of the people, priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Armagh, I want to thank you sincerely for serving us with love and dedication. We appreciate all that you have done for us and we assure you of our continued affection and prayers. We wish you every blessing for a healthy and peaceful retirement."
Archbishop Martin said his appointment was an honour.
As a priest he taught at St Columb's College, Derry and went on to become administrator of the Diocese of Derry in November 2011.
Archbishop Martin has also served as a member of the Catholic Bishops' Joint Bioethics Committee and a director of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
He has a keen interest in music, particularly in choral and classical as well as liturgical and sacred, especially Gregorian Chant. He also enjoys walking and gardening.
"People have been asking me to put 'fresh heart' into the renewal of the church in this country. But I am only one person with all my inadequacies and sinfulness," he said.
"The task of bringing the encouragement of faith to the world belongs to all of us - people, priests, religious sisters and brothers, bishops - working together in communion with Christ and with one another.
"I am certain that a humble renewal in the church in Ireland will only come about as our lay people exercise their specific vocation and mission to hand on the faith and to insert the gospel into the reality of their daily lives and work."
Belfast Telegraph Digital