President Robert Mugabe's most outspoken and enduring critic, Pius Ncube, has quit his post as archbishop so that he can stand trial on charges of adultery as an individual and not as head of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. Peta Thornycroft for VOA has more.

The Vatican announced Tuesday it had accepted the resignation of Archbishop Pius Ncube, head of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo.

In July, a collection of grainy photographs apparently taken in the archbishop's bedroom above the Catholic Cathedral in Bulawayo, were published in the state media.

The pictures showed a naked man, allegedly Archbishop Pius Ncube, with Rosemary Sibanda, member of a prominent Catholic Women's organization. Other more explicit images were screened on state television over several nights showing the two in bed together.

Bishop Ncube, as he will now be known, has been sued for adultery by the woman's estranged husband, Onesimus Sibanda, who is claiming about $160,000 in damages.

The case will be heard in the Bulawayo High Court.

In his statement, released to the media Tuesday, Bishop Ncube said he believed he should face trial as Pius Ncube, an individual and not as the leader of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe.

He said he wrote to Pope Benedict days after what he says was a "state driven, vicious attack not just on myself, but by proxy on the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe." He said his resignation would spare fellow bishops and the Catholic Church any further attacks.

Two weeks before publication of the pictures, Mr. Mugabe lashed out at Catholic priests, telling cheering supporters that some priests had sworn to be celibate but were having sexual relations.

The photographs were taken by Ernest Tekere, a private investigator in Bulawayo who is well known as a former member of the Central Intelligence Organization during state-sponsored massacres of Ndebele speaking opposition supporters in the 1980s.

A close friend of Bishop Ncube's who asked not to be named tells VOA that the church and wider community will see that he has acted honorably. The friend said that unlike the government of Zimbabwe, Bishop Ncube has not committed mass murder, tortured people, nor thrown hundreds of thousands out of their homes.

Bishop Ncube said he will continue to criticize President Mugabe. He said he has not been silenced by what he called the crude machinations of a wicked regime. Bishop Ncube said his new mission will be to help the poor and needy and that he will continue to call for international food aid and medical help in Zimbabwe's ongoing national crisis.

Bishop Ncube was not available to the media Tuesday. He was on week-long retreat of "prayer and reflection" with several Catholic clergymen from Bulawayo.