Pope accepts resignation of head of scandal-plagued Irish church

ROME - Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, the Vatican said on Monday, drawing a line under a career plagued by accusations that he kept quiet about the sexual abuse of children by clergy.

Cardinal Sean Brady announced his plan to retire in August, just before he turned 75, at which age all bishops must offer their resignation to the pontiff, who can reject or accept it.

Brady became embroiled in a child sex abuse scandal which has rocked the Church in Ireland when a BBC television documentary aired in 2012 said he had failed to warn parents their children were being sexually abused by a priest in 1975.

The Vatican said Brady would be succeeded by Monsignor Eamonn Martin, 52, who was appointed last year as "coadjutor"archbishop of Armagh, an important diocese in Northern Ireland whose archbishop has the title "Primate of All Ireland".

Martin effectively sidestepped Brady in running the diocese when he was appointed, sparing the older man the embarrassment of leaving his post before his scheduled retirement.

Brady, who was never accused of abuse himself, apologised at the time of the BBC documentary but said it was misleading.

The abuser whose crimes featured in the documentary, Father Brendan Smyth, died in 1997, one month into a 12-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to 74 charges of indecent and sexual abuse of boys and girls over a period of more than 30 years.

Sexual abuse scandals have haunted the Catholic Church for over two decades and victims groups have been pressing the Vatican to hold bishops accountable if they covered up crimes.

Clerical abuse victim Marie Kane asked the pope directly to remove Brady from his post over the scandal, according to an interview published in the Irish Times in June, on the same day that Francis held a Mass with adult victims.

During that homily, Francis said clerical sex crimes had taken on the dimensions of a sacrilegious cult.