Embattled Bishop of Cloyne John Magee, a former secretary to three Popes who is at the center of controversy over his handling of child abuse cases, has resigned from the day-to-day running of his diocese.

The administration of the diocese has been taken over, on Pope Benedict’s direct order, by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dermot Clifford, who has been appointed Apostolic Administrator of Cloyne.

Magee retains his title as bishop and will now concentrate on cooperating with the Dublin Archdiocese commission of inquiry into child abuses and the Catholic Church’s handling of complaints in Ireland.

The announcement of his resignation came from Magee in a letter to parish priests in which he attributed his decision to the extensive amount of paperwork required by the inquiry.

 “It has become clear to me that in order to focus on the volume of work pertaining to this investigation, regretfully it would not be possible for me to do this and administer the Confirmations in the diocese this year,” he wrote.

However, parents’ representatives said Magee’s decision not to officiate at their children’s Confirma-tion ceremonies was in response to at least five requests from parents’ associations to stay away.

Church sources said the resignation was inevitable following an eight-hour summit of bishops behind closed doors in Maynooth in January when Magee, 72, listened to a litany of expressions of anger and frustration from his colleagues. His fellow bishops complained that not only had Magee failed to apply commonly agreed child protection safeguards, but he had also misled them that he was in full compliance with the procedures.

In doing so, he had undone the slow progress made towards eradicating clerical sex abuse from the Irish church.

The latest development marks a sad finale to the career of a man many expected would become one of the leading lights in the church, both in Ireland and in Rome.

Magee is the only man in the modern history of the church to have served three successive pontiffs — Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul 1 and Pope John Paul II.

His resignation and the appointment of 70-year-old Clifford as replacement “apostolic administrator” of Cloyne have been widely approved.

Cardinal Sean Brady, primate of All Ireland, said the Pope’s decision was “an indication of the importance which the church gives to safeguarding children and caring for the needs of victims.”

The support group for sex abuse victims, One in Four, said, “We must commend Bishop Magee for taking responsibility for the mishandling of child abuse allegations in his diocese. His decision is some consolation to people who have experienced abuse at the hands of the church.”

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