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Bishop resigns for handling of misconduct

NEW YORK (AP) — Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo resigned Wednesday, forced to step aside amid mounting calls for his ouster from his staff, priests and public over his handling of allegations of clergy sexual misconduct.

The Vatican said Pope Francis accepted the resignation and appointed Edward Scharfenberger, the bishop of Albany, New York, to run the Buffalo Diocese until a permanent replacement is found.

Malone insisted he had decided to retire two years before the mandatory retirement age of 75 on his own accord, after much prayer and discernment. However, the Vatican embassy to the U.S. said Malone only offered to retire after learning the results of a Vatican-mandated investigation into the western New York diocese and its handling of abuse claims.

In a statement, Malone said he had come to believe “that the spiritual welfare of the people of the Diocese of Buffalo will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed.”

Scharfenberger told a news conference in Buffalo that he wants to be seen as a healer willing to listen and to develop trust.

“I feel a little bit like the neighbor down the block,” he said, “and I realize that this family has been suffering quite a bit in recent months and years. And my heart just goes out you. And what I see is a need for a tremendous amount of healing … honest conversation, openness.”

As the new apostolic administrator for Buffalo, Scharfenberger plans to visit the eight-county diocese weekly while keeping up with his duties in Albany.

The diocese has been named in more than 220 recent lawsuits by people who allege they were sexually abused by priests.

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