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Australian Archbishop Steps Aside After Conviction

Archbishop Philip Wilson arrives at Newcastle Local Court in Newcastle, Australia, May 22, 2018.

Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson is stepping away from his post after becoming the world's highest-ranking Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sexual abuse committed by a fellow priest.

The 67-year-old Wilson was convicted Tuesday in a court in Newcastle of failing to report the sexual abuse of two altar boys by James Fletcher in the 1970s, after being told about it by one of the victims while he was an assistant parish priest. Fletcher was convicted in 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse, and died in prison two years later.

Wilson issued a statement saying he was stepping aside from his duties while he conferred with his lawyers about the verdict. He said "if it becomes necessary or appropriate for me to take more formal steps," including resigning, then he would do so.

Wilson, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, will be sentenced next month. He faces up two years in prison.

Wilson's conviction comes as Australian Cardinal George Pell is facing two separate trials on charges of historical sexual offenses.

Pell, who serves as finance minister for the Vatican, will be the highest-ranked Catholic official to be tried on such charges during the church's decades-long sexual abuse scandal involving clergy.

Details of the charges have not been made public.