A prominent critic of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has resigned as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo over an adultery scandal.
Archbishop Ncube says Mr Mugabe is a "megalomaniac"
Zimbabwe's state media in July published photographs of what it said was Pius Ncube on a bed with a married woman who worked for his parish.
His lawyers called the allegations an orchestrated attempt to discredit him.
Bishop Ncube, 60, has called for mass protests and foreign intervention to remove Mr Mugabe.
A brief statement from the Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had accepted Bishop Ncube's resignation under the article of church law that says a bishop should retire if he is ill or if "some other grave reason" had made him unsuitable for office.
The secretary general of one faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change told the BBC News website it was a "sad" day for Zimbabwe.
"He fought the regime and the regime fought back," said Tendai Biti.
Bishop Ncube says he offered to resign within days of the publication of the photographs, since when he has been keeping a low profile.
In a statement, he said he had had to wait for the Vatican to acknowlede his resignation before making it public.
The woman's husband has sued him for 20bn Zimbabwe dollars (about $160,000, or £80,000, on the black market exchange rate) over the alleged affair.
Bishop Ncube said he would remain a Catholic bishop in Zimbabwe, and would continue to speak out.
PIUS NCUBE TIMELINE
December 1946: Born
1980s: Witnesses massacres in south-western Zimbabwe but prevented from speaking out
October 1997: Appointed Archbishop of Bulawayo
March 2007: Calls for mass protests to oust Mugabe
2 July 2007: Says foreign powers should remove Mugabe
10 July 2007: Calls Mugabe a "megalomaniac"
17 July 2007: Sued for adultery
11 September 2007: Resigns as archbishop
He said he would work with ordinary people and would not be "silenced by the crude machinations of a wicked regime".
Last month, Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic Bishops backed Bishop Ncube, praising him for "exposing the evils".
They said the attacks on him by the government and state media were "outrageous and utterly deplorable and constitute an assault on the Catholic Church".
In March, Bishop Ncube said he was prepared to stand in front of "blazing guns" at the front of street protests to bring down the government and urged other Zimbabweans to do the same.
Four months later, he said foreign powers should intervene to remove Mr Mugabe, saying this would be "the lesser of two evils".
The photos were published in the state-owned media two weeks later.
Former BBC Zimbabwe correspondent Grant Ferrett says Bishop Ncube's hostility to Mr Mugabe's government stems from the massacres of his Ndebele people in the early 1980s.
An estimated 20,000 people were killed, mostly civilians, by a North Korean-trained brigade of the army.
President Robert Mugabe has reacted to criticism from the country's bishops by warning they were on a "dangerous path" if they became too political.
Zimbabwe has the world's highest rate of inflation - currently about 7,500% - and just one in five adults are in work.
The opposition says government critics are beaten up and even killed by state agents and supporters of Mr Mugabe.
The government denies such claims, saying there is a western plot to remove him from power.