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Archbishop Philip Wilson to step aside as leader of Adelaide archdiocese

Archbishop Philip Wilson

Standing down: Archbishop Philip Wilson leaves the Newcastle Local Court on May 22. He will step aside as leader of Adelaide archdiocese on Friday May 25. Photo: CNS

Updated: May 25 at 1:10pm

ADELAIDE Archbishop Philip Wilson has announced arrangements for the running of the archdiocese, after he was found him guilty of concealing child sex abuse in a case that dates back to the 1970s.

After a guilty verdict in a New South Wales court on May 22, Archbishop Wilson said he would stand aside from his role, but would not resign unless it became “necessary and appropriate”.

He has announced Adelaide vicar general Fr Philip Marshall will take responsibility for the affairs of Adelaide archdiocese.

He will be supported by newly appointed adjunct vicar general Father Anthoni Adimai.

Archbishop Wilson sent a letter to the people of Adelaide archdiocese explaining his decision to stand aside.

“I know that we are a united community of believers, a people of hope, and we will continue to be the disciples of Jesus in the world today,” the statement said.

“While the legal process runs its course, I want to assure the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of my continued prayers and best wishes and assure everyone that the affairs of the Archdiocese will be appropriately managed in my absence.”

Archbishop Wilson was found guilty following a magistrate-only trial in the Newcastle Local Court of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person between April 22, 2004 and January 2006.

He faces a maximum two years in jail, with sentencing due on June 19.

It remains unclear whether he will appeal.

It is more than three years after Archbishop Wilson was first charged.

He pleaded not guilty to concealing a serious crime committed by another person — the sexual abuse of children by a priest, Jim Fletcher, who died in jail in 2006.

 

Original story posted on May 23 at 3:21pm

ADELAIDE Archbishop Philip Wilson will step aside from his position after a magistrate in New South Wales found him guilty of concealing child sex abuse in a case that dates back to the 1970s.

“In the light of some of his Honour’s findings, I stand aside from my duties as Archbishop,” Archbishop Wilson said in a statement released this morning.

His decision to step aside will take affect on Friday, May 25.

“If at any point in time it becomes necessary or appropriate for me to take more formal steps, including by resigning as Archbishop, then I will do so,” he said.

Magistrate Robert Stone handed down a verdict in the Newcastle Local Court on May 22, following a magistrate-only trial, finding Archbishop Wilson, 67, guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person between April 22, 2004 and January 2006.

Wilson now faces a maximum two years in jail, with sentencing due on June 19.

It remains unclear whether he will appeal.

“In the meantime, while the remainder of the legal process runs its course, I want to assure the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of my continued prayers and best wishes and assure everyone that the affairs of the Archdiocese will be appropriately managed in my absence,” Archbishop Wilson said.

It is more than three years after Archbishop Wilson was first charged.

He pleaded not guilty to concealing a serious crime committed by another person — the sexual abuse of children by a priest, Jim Fletcher, who died in jail in 2006.

Archbishop Wilson had made four attempts in the past three years to have the charge struck out without a trial.

He has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and his lawyers argued this meant he should not stand trial, however, this argument was rejected in court.

During the case, The Australian newspaper reported Archbishop Wilson told the court that two former altar boys never told him that Fletcher had sexually abused them.

The newspaper reported that Archbishop Wilson told the court he had known one of the former altar boys Peter Creigh and his family when he was an assistant priest in the New South Wales Hunter region in the mid-1970s, however Archbishop Wilson said he had no memory of Mr Creigh telling him in 1976 how he had been sexually abused by Fletcher five years earlier, when he was 10.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said Archbishop Wilson’s decision “though difficult, was appropriate under the circumstances”.

“Our prayers are with all those who have felt the impact of this long legal process, including the survivors who shared their stories, as well as with the Archdiocese of Adelaide and with Archbishop Wilson himself,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

 

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