Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston became a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandals.

The 86-year-old archbishop whose resignation from his Boston post in 2002 shocked the Church and brought abuse into the open, had been living in Rome and was in declining health in recent years.

The Vatican did not give a cause of death but sources close to Law, who died in a hospital in Rome, said he had been suffering from the complications of diabetes, liver failure and a build up of fluids around the heart, known as pericardial effusion.

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Law was archbishop of Boston for 18 years when Pope John Paul - who in 1984 had appointed Law to run one of the most prestigious and wealthy American archdioceses - reluctantly accepted his resignation on December 13, 2002, after a tumultuous year in Church history.

A succession of devastating stories by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team showed how priests who sexually abused children had been moved from parish to parish for years under Law’s tenure without informing parishioners or law authorities.

The resignation sent shock waves through the American Church and began a trickle down effect around the world, as the cover-up techniques used in Boston were discovered to have been used in country after country.

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