Pope likely to approve decision by Cardinal Sean Brady to step down
Sources indicate the Vatican is under pressure to accept resignation immediately following calls by Irish survivors of clerical abuse for him to stand aside
Pope Francis is expected to accept the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady as Primate of All Ireland in the coming months.
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland wrote to the Vatican several weeks ago indicating that he is prepared to step down, it has been learned.
The decision by Cardinal Brady, who became Primate in 1996, to submit his notice almost a month before his birthday has been seen as surprising in religious circles.
Cardinal Brady, who turns 75 on Saturday, does not automatically abdicate the role as he can only retire with the Pope's permission.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Communications Office confirmed: "When Pope Francis accepts the retirement, Coadjutor Archbishop Eamon Martin will become Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland."
Under canon law, a diocesan bishop is required to offer his resignation after his 75th birthday but, in many cases, the Pope decides to allow them to continue in their position.
It had seemed likely that Cardinal Brady would be kept on as Primate for some time after his 75th birthday in order to give his younger prelate time to make the transition.
Archbishop Eamon Martin was appointed coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh in April 2013.
Sources have indicated that the Vatican is under pressure to accept Cardinal Brady's resignation immediately following calls by two Irish survivors of clerical abuse, who met the Pope on July 7, for him to stand aside.
Following their ground-breaking papal meeting, Marie Kane, who was abused by a Dublin priest, and Mark Vincent Healy, who was abused by a Spiritan priest while attending St Mary's College in Dublin, both demanded publicly that Cardinal Brady be forced to leave his position.
Marie Kane outlined her reasons in a personal letter which she handed to the pontiff at the end of their private meeting.
Both Ms Kane and Mr Healy are highly critical of Cardinal Brady's role in a 1975 secret canonical trial which came to light in 2010.
The three-member clerical team, in which the then Fr Brady was the most junior member and, in respect of which he acted merely as a note taker, investigated Fr Brendan Smyth's abuse of teenager Brendan Boland.
The matter was investigated in a BBC documentary which revealed that, as a priest and later as a church leader, Cardinal Brady had not reported Smyth's horrific abuse of Boland and other children to the civil authorities.
Within the past month, Mr Boland published his account of the church authorities' handling of his abuse by the notorious Smyth in his book, Sworn to Silence.
The book reproduced for the first time transcripts signed by Fr Brady from the 1975 canonical process and the oath of secrecy which the 14-year-old Boland was made to sign and which the then Fr John Brady countersigned.
Mr Boland has said he would like Cardinal Brady to read his book.
"He might go away and reflect on it and consider whether, in the light of his role in the events described, he should retire in the normal fashion, or resign," Mr Boland said.
Last December, clerical abuse watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, published its review of the Archdiocese of Armagh and praised Dr Brady for adopting a more focused and committed approach to the protection of children since he took over the diocese.
News of his letter to the Holy See is due to be reported in the international Catholic weekly, The Tablet, today.
However, it is up to Pope Francis as to how long before he acts on the correspondence.