Australian archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson has sent a letter to Catholic schools in his home state, asking them to "please continue to pray for me" after he was found guilty of concealing child sexual abuse.
The letter, which was sent out on Wednesday, announced Wilson – having been "found guilty of an offence" – would be stepping aside from his duties as archbishop.
"I know that we are a united community of believers, a people of hope, and we will continue to be the disciples of Jesus in the world today," wrote Wilson in the letter, which was given to students to take home to their parents or carers.
"I want to assure the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of my continued prayers and best wishes and assure everyone that the affairs of the Archdiocese will be appropriately managed in my absence."
Wilson's letter first went viral on Twitter, and then Reddit, where it generated outrage over the archbishop's decision to contact children directly, via the Catholic school system.
Dr Neil McGoran, the director of Catholic Education South Australia, told news.com.au the letter's purpose was to inform people of Wilson's decision to step aside and "reassure them that the essential pastoral aspects of the life of the Archdiocese of Adelaide would continue."
The most senior Catholic official in the world to be convicted of covering up child abuse, Wilson has denied claims he covered up child abuse by paedophile priest Jim Fletcher, who died in jail in 2006.
Wilson said he could not remember a conversation he had with an altar boy about Fletcher and alleged sexual abuse, which took place in 1976. He was found guilty on Tuesday, and faces a maximum of two years in jail.
BuzzFeed News has contacted the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide for comment.