A former Vatican diplomat accuses Pope Francis of covering an American cardinal and calls for him to resign.

According to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Vatican ambassador to Washington, US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been charged with “grossly immoral behaviour”.

Bishop Theodore McGarrick resigned last month following allegations that he had sexually abused student seminarians.

Bishop Carlo Maria Vigano said he had discussed with the Pope accusations about the former Archbishop of Washington, a few months after his election as head of the Holy See in March 2013.

According to him, the Argentine pope would have preferred to ignore his warnings and had cancelled the sanctions to which Theodore McGarrick was subjected.

The pope even took the American prelate as advisor on cardinal appointments, said Bishop Vigano, adding that the head of the Catholic Church should set an example by resigning.

“Corruption has reached the top of the hierarchy of the Church,” said Bishop Vigano in an 11-page letter published simultaneously on Saturday by several Catholic newspapers in the United States.

The publication of his letter comes on the second day of a short trip by Pope Francis to Ireland, where the issue of sexual abuse of the Church in the world occupies particularly media ground.

“The Vatican has no immediate comment,” said Sunday a Vatican spokesman from Rome, quoted by Agence France-Presse.

Bishop Vigano, 77, a Vatican representative in Washington from 2011 to 2016, says Pope Benedict XVI imposed canonical sanctions against Cardinal McCarrick in the late 2000s.

The prelate had to leave the seminary where he lived, avoid all public contact and live a life of penance.

Pope Francis finally accepted in July the resignation of the College of Cardinals Theodore McCarrick, 88, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington.

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