Bishop at centre of child pornography scandal resigns at Pope's request

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The Independent Online

An Austrian bishop at the centre of a sex scandal involving student priests and child pornography resigned on the express wishes of Pope John Paul II yesterday, as the Vatican tried to restore confidence in the country's discredited Catholic Church.

An Austrian bishop at the centre of a sex scandal involving student priests and child pornography resigned on the express wishes of Pope John Paul II yesterday, as the Vatican tried to restore confidence in the country's discredited Catholic Church.

Bishop Kurt Krenn, 68, who was in overall charge of the St Poelten seminary for student priests near Vienna, announced he was stepping down immediately after being asked to do so by the Pope.

"I have stepped down and am now the former bishop of St Poelten," he told Austria's Der Standard newspaper. "The Pope does not force anybody to resign. At the most he asks that someone go." The scandal surrounding Bishop Krenn broke last July when an Austrian news magazine published photographs of clerics kissing and fondling student priests at the seminary. It also reported that police had discovered 40,000 photographs and videos - many containing pornographic images of children - on computers at the seminary.

Publication of the photographs caused uproar in Austria and church officials revealed last week that 10,000 people had left the church in protest. Despite growing demands for his resignation, the bishop dismissed the images as a "childish prank" and insisted that the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against the seminary under his charge were groundless.

But the affair prompted the Vatican to appoint Bishop Klaus Kueng, an Austrian cleric, to conduct an investigation which led to the closure of the St Poelten seminary last month. "The seminary has veered away from its mission," Bishop Kueng concluded.

The scandal intensified last month when a 27-year-old former seminary student from Poland was given a suspended jail sentence for downloading hundreds of images of child pornography from the internet.

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