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Archbishop Wilson steps aside - no word on appeal

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Vicar-General Father Philip Marshall will take over responsibility for the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide today, with Archbishop Philip Wilson stepping aside in the wake of his conviction.

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The Archdiocese said in a statement this morning that Marshall would be supported in his role by newly-appointed Adjunct Vicar General Father Anthoni Adimai.

Marshall said one of his first priorities would be to “ensure we continue to be a church where the safety of children is paramount and where survivors of abuse are listened to and supported”.

Wilson, convicted this week by a NSW court on a charge of concealing child sex abuse, faces a maximum sentence of up to two years. While there have been reports that he is likely to appeal, the Archdiocese remains silent on that point.

When asked if a decision had been made on whether to appeal the Archbishop’s conviction, a spokesperson said the church was not able to comment on anything relating to the case “until the legal process has run its course”.

The Archdiocese said Marshall would take principal responsibility for “liturgical duties and direction of the Archdiocese while continuing to look after clergy matters and coordinating the Archdiocese’s renewal program”.

Adimai will continue as a parish priest in Hectorville but would work with Marshall in dealing with the affairs of the Archdiocese.

Chancellor Pauline Connelly, the assistant director of Centacare, has been appointed chair of the Archdiocesan Council for Child Protection.

The statement said she would act as “the Archbishop’s delegate in managing and dealing with matters related to professional standards, the Police Check Unit and the Child Protection Unit”.

Wilson said earlier this week that while he would step down, he would also resign “if at any point in time it becomes necessary or appropriate”.

In the Newcastle Local Court this week, Magistrate Robert Stone found Wilson had concealed the abuse of two altar boys in the NSW Hunter region by pedophile priest James Fletcher by failing to report the allegations to police.

Wilson, 67, is the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged and convicted of such an offence.

After his conviction, he sent a letter to Catholics across the Archdiocese, including to parents of students in Catholic schools, asking for their prayers.

“I know we are a united community of believers, a people of hope, and we will continue to be the disciples of Jesus,” Wilson wrote.

“We have achieved great things in all facets of the life of the Archdiocese, including in our parishes, schools, social services, health and in aged care.”

Wilson said he wanted to assure the Catholic faithful of his “continued prayers and best wishes”.

“Please continue to pray for me,” he wrote.

Some people took to social media to criticise the letter, particularly its failure to mention the victims of abuse.

– InDaily with AAP

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