Members of the German Bishops' Conference enter the cathedral to attend the opening mass of the conference on September 25, 2018 in Fulda, western Germany. - Germany's Catholic Church is due on September 25, 2018 to confess and apologise for thousands of cases of sexual abuse against children, part of a global scandal heaping pressure on the Vatican. It will release the latest in a series of reports on sexual crimes and cover-ups spanning decades that has shaken the largest Christian Church, from Europe to the United States, South America and Australia. (Photo by Arne Dedert / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT        (Photo credit should read ARNE DEDERT/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: ARNE DEDERT/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the German Bishops' Conference enter the cathedral to attend the opening mass of the conference on September 25, 2018 in Fulda, western Germany. - Germany's Catholic Church is due on September 25, 2018 to confess and apologise for thousands of cases of sexual abuse against children, part of a global scandal heaping pressure on the Vatican. It will release the latest in a series of reports on sexual crimes and cover-ups spanning decades that has shaken the largest Christian Church, from Europe to the United States, South America and Australia. (Photo by Arne Dedert / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read ARNE DEDERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:05
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is a global crisis
Pope Francis meets with Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq's Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.
PHOTO: Vatican Media/AP
Pope Francis meets with Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq's Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.
Now playing
01:42
Pope Francis holds historic meeting with revered Shia cleric
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:30
Behind the scenes as Pope makes historic trip to Iraq
dr sasa
PHOTO: CNN
dr sasa
Now playing
01:32
Myanmar envoy to UN: It seems like they have a license to kill
meghan markle oprah entrevista harry esposa acusa familia real acoso mentiras inhs lkl max foster_00002717.png
PHOTO: cbs
meghan markle oprah entrevista harry esposa acusa familia real acoso mentiras inhs lkl max foster_00002717.png
Now playing
03:33
CBS releases another teaser for Meghan and Harry's Oprah interview
Now playing
03:49
He feared for his life in Nicaragua. Under Biden's new policy, he's safe in the US
screenshot myanmar funeral on streets
PHOTO: Reuters
screenshot myanmar funeral on streets
Now playing
02:26
Shocking images emerge from Myanmar as military cracks down
Screengrab of Our lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, Iraq from Ben Wedeman's pkg
PHOTO: CNN
Screengrab of Our lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, Iraq from Ben Wedeman's pkg
Now playing
03:04
CNN revisits church where massacre occurred ahead of Pope's visit
screengrab Japan oldest woman Olympics torchbearer Kane Tanaka
PHOTO: Source: Kane Tanaka
screengrab Japan oldest woman Olympics torchbearer Kane Tanaka
Now playing
02:43
This 118-year-old woman is set to break Olympic record
Sergey Aleksashenko
PHOTO: CNN
Sergey Aleksashenko
Now playing
01:15
Navalny ally: Of course I'm scared but I cannot hide myself
A split of a Muslim religious leader and the Archbishop of Westminster being interviewed by CNN's Becky Anderson.
PHOTO: CNN
A split of a Muslim religious leader and the Archbishop of Westminster being interviewed by CNN's Becky Anderson.
Now playing
02:14
Pope's Iraq visit is risky. 2 religious leaders explain why it's key
Middle east Iraq Christians pope francis Wedeman pkg intl hnk vpx_00000823.png
Middle east Iraq Christians pope francis Wedeman pkg intl hnk vpx_00000823.png
Now playing
03:44
What's behind the mass exodus of Christians from Iraq?
Screengrab for Paula Hancocks live segment on Myanmar
PHOTO: Twitter
Screengrab for Paula Hancocks live segment on Myanmar
Now playing
03:13
Video shows dramatic escalation of violence in Myanmar
Now playing
03:24
Author describes what happened when ISIS underestimated women fighters
FILE- In this Nov. 7, 2019 file photo, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Wednesday, March 3, 2021 that she has launched an investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories. Fatou Bensouda said in a statement the probe will be conducted "independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor."(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
PHOTO: Peter Dejong/AP
FILE- In this Nov. 7, 2019 file photo, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Wednesday, March 3, 2021 that she has launched an investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories. Fatou Bensouda said in a statement the probe will be conducted "independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor."(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
Now playing
01:57
ICC to investigate alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas
Attorney-General Christian Porter speaks during a media conference on March 03, 2021 in Perth, Australia. Attorney-General Christian Porter has publicly confirmed he is the cabinet minister named in a historical rape allegation from 1988 which came to light in the last week and has emphatically denied the allegations.
PHOTO: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Attorney-General Christian Porter speaks during a media conference on March 03, 2021 in Perth, Australia. Attorney-General Christian Porter has publicly confirmed he is the cabinet minister named in a historical rape allegation from 1988 which came to light in the last week and has emphatically denied the allegations.
Now playing
02:25
Australian Attorney General denies historical rape allegation
(CNN) —  

For more than a year, thousands of Catholics in Buffalo pleaded, protested and prayed for Bishop Richard Malone to resign. They circulated petitions, held placards at prayer vigils, even tried to meet Malone’s plane at the airport.

On Wednesday these Buffalo Catholics finally got their wish when the Vatican announced Pope Francis had accepted Malone’s resignation. No reason was given for the resignation.

“The overwhelming emotion is relief that we don’t have to hold signs that say Bishop Malone has to go,” said Siobhan O’Connor, a former secretary to Malone who later became a whistleblower and accused the bishop of mishandling abuse cases.

O’Connor says she is disappointed, however, that the Vatican did not announce the reason for Malone’s removal or the results of its investigation into the Buffalo Diocese.

“It’s a reminder that transparency is far from reality in the church,” O’Connor said.

Malone issued his own statement, attributing his early retirement to turmoil caused by the Catholic Church’s clergy sexual abuse crisis, and discord over his response to it.

The Diocese of Buffalo “will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed,” he wrote in a letter released by the diocese.

“It is my honest assessment that I have accomplished as much as I am able to, and that there remain divisions and wounds that I am unable to bind and heal,” said Malone in the letter.

All bishops are required to submit their resignation to the pope when they turn 75. Malone is 73.

Since the church’s clergy sexual abuse crisis reignited in 2018, bishops across the country have come under greater scrutiny for the crimes and cover ups alleged to have occurred on their watch. Few faced louder and more persistent accusations than Malone, who had led the diocese of some 600,000 Catholics since 2012.

Both the FBI and New York State Office of The Attorney General are investigating clergy abuse and cover ups in the Buffalo diocese, according to the Buffalo News. The newspaper has also reported that more than 220 lawsuits have been filed against the diocese alleging clergy abuse. Already, Buffalo has paid abuse survivors more than $17.5 million through a victim’s compensation fund.

In October, the Vatican announced its own investigation – called an Apostolic Visitation – into the Buffalo diocese. The results of that probe have not been made public. But the Vatican has a final report, and Malone submitted his resignation to Pope Francis last month, after Malone was made aware of the results, the Vatican’s embassy in Washington said.

Malone asked for early retirement when he was in Rome with a contingent of bishops from the United States as part of regularly scheduled “ad limina” meetings with the Pope, the embassy in Washington said.

As CNN and other news outlets have reported, Malone kept a secret binder full of the names of accused priests in a closet in his office. Many of those names were withheld when Malone issued a list of credibly accused priests, a whistleblower told CNN last year.

A spokeswoman told CNN the list Malone released included only priests accused of abusing minors, not those accused of misconduct with adults.

“My handling of recent claims from some of our parishioners concerning sexual misconduct with adults unquestionably has fallen short of the standard to which you hold us, and to which we hold ourselves,” Malone said last year.

Later, the diocese revised its list of credibly accused priests from 42 to 78.

Still, Malone adamantly resisted calls for his resignation, even when prominent local Catholics and some of his own priests called for his ouster, insisting that a “shepherd does not desert the flock.”

“Buffalo is a microcosm of the current US clergy abuse crisis and a cautionary tale,” said Terence McKiernan of the watchdog group Bishop Accountability.

“While the drama of Malone’s incomplete list of accused priests has played out in Buffalo, 100 other U.S. bishops have released lists of their own.”

Malone is the fifth US bishop to resign or retire since the latest outbreak of allegations in the church’s sex abuse scandal began last summer, according to Bishop Accountability.

Malone says he is retiring voluntarily

Malone said he anticipated people would surmise his resignation stems from the Vatican’s investigation, he wrote in Wednesday’s letter.

“While I was made aware of the general conclusions of the report, which were a factor in my discernment, my decision to retire early was made freely and voluntarily,” he wrote.

Albany’s bishop will guide Buffalo’s diocese temporarily

In Malone’s stead, Edward Scharfenberger, the bishop of Albany, will temporarily lead the Buffalo diocese, the Vatican announced.

Scharfenberger will tend to both dioceses simultaneously until Malone’s successor is appointed, the Albany diocese said.

At a press conference Wednesday, Scharfenberger said he plans to spend one day each week in Buffalo.

“I am here for you. I am here to listen to you. I am here to walk with you and I am here to help you heal,” the bishop said. “And I would prefer to convey that message by what I do and not just what I say.”

CNN’s Rosa Flores, Joe Sutton and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

Correction: This story has been updated with the correct amount abuse survivors received from the victim's compensation fund.