Cardinal Brady offers resignation
Cardinal Sean Brady, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, has confirmed he has offered his resignation.
Amid much speculation that he was to stand down, the senior churchman said he wrote to Pope Francis last month asking if he could resign as Archbishop of Armagh.
"I did so in anticipation of my seventy-fifth birthday which I will celebrate tomorrow," he said in a statement today.
Archbishop Eamon Martin will take over the role as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland as soon as Pope Francis accepts the resignation.
"I look forward to the day when my resignation will be accepted and when Archbishop Eamon will take over as Archbishop, a position for which, I believe, he is excellently prepared," added Cardinal Brady.
Cardinal Brady has faced calls to stand down from clerical sex abuse survivors.
Last month Pope Francis promised to hold bishops accountable for the protection of children and begged forgiveness from victims after he celebrated a Mass with six survivors at the Vatican.
One of the six, Irish woman Marie Kane, said she asked the pontiff to remove Cardinal Brady from his post because of the way he handled abuse allegations.
Ms Kane said she told Pope Francis a ''cover-up is still happening'' and he has ''the power to make these changes''.
Cardinal Brady has been heavily criticised for swearing two victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth to secrecy during an internal church inquiry in 1975.
Their evidence was never handed over to police, allowing Smyth to continue abusing children before he was finally jailed in 1994.
Last December an investigation by church watchdog the N ational Board for Safeguarding Children said Cardinal Brady made a ''commendable decision to gather and document whatever information was available" about abuse allegations in his own archdiocese on taking up his role as Primate of All Ireland in 1996.
At the time he said he was truly sorry for the suffering of victims.
Although he has also apologised to the victims of Smyth, he previously said he would not resign over the affair.
Cardinal Brady has led the church in Ireland for more than 17 years during which time a series of investigations exposed shocking levels of clerical abuse.
In 2010 he asked Pope Benedict XVI to appoint an assistant to the Armagh Archdiocese and Fr Martin, a Derry-born former teacher, was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh.
The 52-year-old has pledged to work to heal the wounds of those who have lost trust in the institution after a period of unprecedented turmoil.