Pope John Paul II accepted the resignation Tuesday of Philadelphia's 80-year-old archbishop, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, for age reasons. He'll be replaced in October by St. Louis archbishop Justin F. Rigali, a cleric with close ties to the Vatican. Bevilacqua led the Philadelphia archdiocese since 1988. In 2002, as the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church reached its height, Bevilacqua made headlines by calling homosexuality an "aberration, a moral evil" and by suggesting that gays were more likely to commit abuse. Under his leadership, the Philadelphia archdiocese tried to weed out gay candidates to the priesthood and expelled any seminarian found to be actively gay--a zero-tolerance policy experts called relatively rare.
Rigali, 68, had a long career working for the Vatican before being named St. Louis archbishop in 1994. He served as an English-language translator for Pope Paul VI and accompanied both that pontiff and John Paul II on international trips. Rigali never ran a parish before taking the St. Louis post, and a leading advocate for victims of molestation by priests said Tuesday that he has been among the least compassionate American bishops in dealing with the clerical sex abuse crisis.