US Catholic bishop with secret family, Gabino Zavala, quits

Bishop Zavala celebrating mass in 2005 Bishop Zavala was known for his work with California's Hispanic community

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A Catholic bishop who fathered two children has stepped down.

Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, the Vatican said.

The Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, wrote in a letter to worshippers that Bishop Zavala told him in December that he was the father of two teenage children.

The children, who are minors, live with their mother in another state.

Archbishop Gomez said that the archdiocese was offering the family "spiritual care," as well as funding to help the children with college costs.

In his letter he described the news as "sad and difficult" and said Bishop Zavala had been living privately and not participating in ministry since resigning.

Bishop Zavala is 60 and was born in Mexico. He has campaigned against the death penalty and for immigrants' rights.

The Vatican did not spell out the reason for Bishop Zavala's resignation in its statement, but made reference to canon law which allows bishops to step down before normal retirement age if they are ill or unfit for office for some other reason.

The Pope has shown no sign of relaxing the Roman Catholic Church's rule on priestly celibacy, which has been in place since the 11th Century.

The Pope (4 January 2012) The Pope has made clear that he has no plans to change the rule of priestly celibacy

In March 2010 he described celibacy as "the sign of full devotion, the entire commitment to the Lord and to the 'Lord's business', an expression of giving oneself to God and to others".

Priests are not allowed to marry but married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism are exempted from the celibacy rule.

Two days ago Pope Benedict appointed an American married priest to head the first US structure for Anglicans converting to Roman Catholicism.

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