Friday, June 29, 2012

Pope accepts Argentine bishop's resignation over sex scandal

The Vatican has accepted the resignation of an Argentine bishop who was caught cavorting with a woman on a beach, in the latest of a string of sex scandals to hit the Catholic Church.

Bishop Fernando Bargallo, 57, was forced to hand in his resignation after photographs emerged this month showing him frolicking and embracing a blonde, bikini-clad woman at a luxury resort in Mexico.

Bargallo, who led the diocese of Merlo-Moreno outside Buenos Aires since May 1997, has reportedly admitted to having "amorous ties" with the woman he is seen embracing in the water, thought to be a divorced restaurant owner.

He had initially claimed she was just a longtime friend.

The news broke as the Vatican ousted the founder of an Italian misson for "serious immoral behaviour," after it emerged he had sex with female missionaries during a posting in South America.

Luigi Prandin, who founded the Villaregia Missionary Community, was ousted along with co-founder, Maria Luigia Corona, who knew of the liaisons but covered it up because she feared a scandal.

The scandals have raised fresh calls for priests to be allowed to marry.

Pope Benedict XVI has vigorously denied claims that abstention may have contributed to sex abuse scandals, insisting repeatedly that celibacy is central to the priesthood.

In April, he issued a rare condemnation of errant priests, slamming in particular an "appeal to religious disobedience" launched by a group of Austrian clerics in 2011, which argued for an end to priestly celibacy.

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