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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP/CNN) — A former Vatican official is calling for Pope Francis to resign.

Former archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano says the pope knew about sexual abuse allegations against a U.S. Cardinal but did nothing about it.

In an explosive letter, Vigano says he told the pope five years ago about the allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

But Pope Francis is refusing to comment on the allegation.

Francis was asked by a U.S. reporter during an airborne press conference Sunday if Vigano’s claims that the two discussed the McCarrick allegations in 2013 were true. Francis was also asked about Vigano’s claims that McCarrick was already under sanction at the time, but that Francis rehabilitated him.

Francis said he had read Vigano’s document and trusted journalists to judge for themselves.

“It’s an act of trust,” he said. “I won’t say a word about it.”

The National Catholic Register and another conservative site, LifeSiteNews, published Vigano’s text Sunday as the pope wrapped up a two-day visit to Ireland dominated by the clerical sex abuse scandal.

Vigano did not offer any proof for his statements, including that Francis ignored sanctions that had been placed on McCarrick by the previous Pope which removed him from his official church duties.

“This is like an earthquake for the church,” said Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo.

Monsignor Figueiredo did not call into question Vigano’s reputation.

“I know him personally. I know him as a man of great integrity, honest to the core,” said Figueiredo.

Vigano, 77, a conservative whose hardline anti-gay views are well known, urged the reformist pope to resign over what he called Francis’ own culpability in covering up McCarrick’s crimes.

Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as cardinal last month after a U.S. church investigation determined that an accusation he had sexually abused a minor was credible.

Since then, another man has come forward to say McCarrick began molesting him starting when he was 11, and several former seminarians have said McCarrick abused and harassed them when they were in seminary. The accusations have created a crisis of confidence in the U.S. and Vatican hierarchy, because it was apparently an open secret that McCarrick regularly invited seminarians to his New Jersey beach house, and into his bed.

Coupled with the devastating allegations of sex abuse and cover-up in a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report — which found that 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years in six dioceses — the scandal has led to calls for heads to roll and for a full Vatican investigation into who knew what and when about McCarrick.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.)

 

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