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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 September, 2004, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Austria bishop quits in sex row
Bishop Kurt Krenn seen arriving back from a visit to the Vatican earlier this month
Bishop Krenn initially dismissed the scandal as "childish pranks"
A Roman Catholic bishop at the centre of a porn scandal involving clerics and student priests at an Austrian seminary is stepping down.

Bishop Kurt Krenn, 68, was in overall charge of the seminary where investigators found thousands of lewd images, including child pornography.

"Yes, I'm resigning immediately as bishop of St Poelten," he said in an interview with Der Standard newspaper.

The affair has shocked Austria and embarrassed the Roman Catholic Church.

In response, Pope John Paul ll appointed another Austrian cleric, Bishop Klaus Kueng, to investigate the affair.

Bishop Kueng last month closed the seminary at St Poelten, about 80km (50 miles) west of the capital, Vienna, saying it had "veered away from its mission".

The scandal came to light in July, when Austrian news magazine Profil published pictures of clerics kissing and fondling student priests.

It also reported that a police investigation had uncovered as many as 40,000 images and videos - among them child pornography - on computers at the seminary.

'Asked to go'

Demands grew for Bishop Krenn to resign or be sacked after he dismissed the photographs as "childish pranks" and called the allegations of sexual misconduct "groundless".

Bishop Krenn told Der Standard that he was stepping down voluntarily and not under pressure from the Vatican.

"The Pope does not force anybody to resign. He asks at most that someone go," he said.

The Austrian We Are Church group, which had pressed for Bishop Krenn to step down or be fired, said it was "relieved" at the bishop's decision.

"It is an important and inevitable first step for renewal in the diocese," they said in a statement. "Many people both inside and outside the diocese can draw a deep breath and finally look with hope toward the future."

Last month, a Polish student priest at the seminary was convicted of possessing child pornography.

The man, identified as Piotr Z., 27, was given a six-month suspended jail sentence for downloading hundreds of images from the internet.

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