Vatican City, Sep 28, 2014 / 09:59 am
Bishop Kieran Conry of the U.K. dioceses of Arundel and Brighton has announced his resignation after revealing he has been "unfaithful" to his "promises as a Catholic priest."
"I am sorry for the shame that I have brought on the diocese and the Church and I ask for your prayers and forgiveness," he said in a brief statement, which has been read in all the Church's of the dioceses over the weekend.
In the Sept. 27 announcement, the bishop wrote: "going back some years, I have been unfaithful to my promises as a Catholic priest."
"As a result, however, I have decided to offer my resignation as bishop with immediate effect and will now take some time to consider my future."
"I want to apologize first of all to the individuals hurt by my actions," the statement read, "and then to all of those inside and outside the diocese who will be shocked, hurt and saddened to hear this."
The resignation announcement was made hours before The Daily Mail released a major article about an alleged affair between the bishop and a woman six years ago.
The U.K. publication also alleges that the prelate was involved more recently with a married woman and mother of two children.
Bishop Conry acknowledged to The Daily Mail this summer that the married woman had spent the night at his house twice, adding that she is not the only woman who has done so. However, he denied a sexual relationship with the woman. The woman's husband recently filed for divorce and is considering legal action against the Church, according to his lawyer.
According to the report, the bishop denied this more recent alleged affair as having anything to do his decision to step down.
He said that resignation relates to the "relationship of six years ago," later adding that it is "liberating" and "a relief" to have news of that affair become public after years of secrecy. He also denied that Church authorities had known about the affair.
In the official statement, Bishop Conry offered assurance that his actions were not illegal and did not involve minors.
"This is a sad and painful moment," wrote President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, in a brief statement following the announcement. "It makes clear that we are always a Church of sinners called to repentance and conversion and in need of God's mercy."
"All involved in this situation are much in my prayers today."
Ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Birmingham in 1975, Bishop Conry was named Bishop of Arundel and Brighton on May 8, 2001. He was known for a liberal approach to numerous areas of Church teachings, including artificial contraception.
Neither the Holy See press office nor the Vatican Congregation for Bishops had any response to the resignation announcement as of Monday evening in Rome. The Vatican has not yet posted news of Pope Francis accepting the resignation.
**Updated Sept. 29, 2014 11:00 MST.