Pope likely to accept Cardinal Brady's letter of resignation
Pope Francis is expected to accept the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady as Primate of All Ireland in the coming months.
The cardinal wrote to the Vatican several weeks ago indicating that he is prepared to step down, the Irish Independent has learned.
Dr Brady, who turns 75 on Saturday, does not automatically abdicate the role as he can only retire with the permission of Pope Francis.
But sources say that the Vatican feels under pressure to accept his resignation immediately following calls by two Irish survivors of clerical abuse, who met the Pope on July 7, for him to stand aside.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Communications Office confirmed: “When Pope Francis accepts the retirement, Coadjutor Archbishop Eamon Martin will become Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.”
Under Canon Law a diocesan bishop is required to offer his resignation after his 75th birthday but in many cases the Pope decides to allow them continue in the position.
It had seemed likely that Cardinal Brady would be kept on as Primate for sometime after his 75th birthday in order to give his younger successor time to make the transition.
Archbishop Martin (52) was consecrated coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh in April 2013.
The decision by Dr Brady, who became Primate in 1996, to submit his notice to the Pope almost a month ahead of his birthday is seen as surprising in religious circles.
Following their ground- breaking papal meeting Marie Kane and Mark Vincent Healy both demanded publicly that Dr Brady must be forced to leave his position.
Marie Kane outlined her reasons in a personal letter which she handed to the pontiff at the end of their private meeting in July.
Ms Kane and Mr Healy are highly critical of Dr Brady's role in a 1975 secret canonical trial which came to light in 2010.
The three-member clerical team, for which the then Fr Brady was the most junior member and in respect of which he acted merely as a note taker, investigated Fr Brendan Smyth's abuse of teenager Brendan Boland.
The matter was investigated in a 2012 BBC Northern Ireland documentary which revealed that as a priest and later as a church leader, Dr Brady had not reported Smyth's horrific abuse of Boland and other children to the civil authorities.
Within the past month, Mr Boland published a book called 'Sworn to Silence'.
It reproduced for the first time transcripts signed by Fr Brady from the 1975 canonical process and the oath of secrecy which the 14-year-old Boland was made to sign.
Mr Boland has said he would like Dr Brady to read his book. "He might go away and reflect on it and consider whether, in the light of his role in the events described, he should retire in the normal fashion, or resign," he said.
Last December, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church published its review of the Archdiocese of Armagh and praised Dr Brady for adopting a more focused and committed approach to the safeguarding of children since he took over the diocese.
News of his letter to the Holy See is due to be reported in the international Catholic weekly, The Tablet, tomorrow.
However, it is entirely up to Pope Francis as to how long before he acts on the correspondence.
Canon law states: "A diocesan bishop who has completed the 75th year of age is requested to present his resignation from office to the Supreme Pontiff, who will make provision after he has examined all the circumstances."
Dr Brady was the only churchman from Ireland or Britain at the conclave that elected Pope Francis in March 2013.
In an interview with the Irish Independent at Christmas he said he was looking forward to his retirement but had no plans.
"I was ordained to be a priest in a parish and I've spent one year of my life in parish work so maybe I'll get a chance to spend some time in parish work before I die."
He is due to attend the launch of the Columbian year in Rome on October 11, which will mark the 1,400 anniversary of the death of the Irish missionary saint who lived between 543 and 615.
Dr Brady was ordained a priest in 1964. He served as rector of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome from 1987 until 1993, and became a cardinal in 2007.