Monsignor Aldo di Cillo Pagotto, 66, the archbishop of Paraiba, resigned under the article of canon law that allows bishops to retire early for “grave” reasons that make them unfit for office.
Francis appointed an administrator to run the archdiocese until a permanent replacement is found.
In a farewell letter, Monsignor Pagotto admitted he had made mistakes and that he had accepted into the archdioceses priests and seminarians who had committed “serious errors.” He blamed his own “merciful ingenuousness” and said he did so because he wanted to give them a second chance.
The pope recently issued new procedures to expel bishops who shield paedophiles, amid an outcry from victims’ groups that bishops have long escaped punishment for moving abusers around rather than reporting them to police.
The new procedures do not come into effect until September, meaning Monsignor Pagotto was forced out under existing procedures in place at the Vatican’s office for bishops.
Italian news agency Ansa said that in 2015 the Vatican sent an envoy to Paraiba to investigate. As a preliminary sanction, Monsignor Pagotto was prohibited from ordaining priests and deacons or welcoming in any priests or seminarians expelled from other dioceses.
At the time of the Vatican intervention, Brazilian media reported on a letter from a parishioner alleging Monsignor Pagotto had had sexual relations with an 18-year-old man, the Zenit Catholic news agency reported.
Zenit said he successfully had the news reports deleted from internet searches.
In his farewell letter, Monsignor Pagotto blasted what he called defamatory news reports that, he said, had distorted and divided the church.