ROME — Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, previously considered one of the most influential prelates in England, has abruptly resigned after admitting to “being unfaithful to his promises to the Catholic Church.”

In a brief statement, Conry only said that the reasons for his resignation “were not illegal nor did they involve minors.”

According to reports in the English media, Conry stepped down after allegations of affairs with adult female parishioners, although The Daily Mail indicates that Conry has admitted to only one such relationship that allegedly occurred six years ago.

Confronted by reporters at the door of his bishops’ residence last night, he said: “This relates to a relationship of six years ago.”

The identity of the woman allegedly involved was not published, as British law protects confidentiality in such cases.

In a statement being read in all Masses in his diocese today, Conry apologized to those hurt by his action and “to all of those inside and outside the diocese who will be shocked, hurt and saddened to hear this.”

“I am sorry for the shame that I have brought on the diocese and the Church and I ask for your prayers and forgiveness,” he said.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, released a statement saying, “This is a sad and painful moment.”

“It makes clear that we are always a Church of sinners called to repentance and conversion and in need of God’s mercy,” Nichols said. “All involved in this situation are much in my prayers today.”

Conry was ordained priest in the Archdiocese of Birmingham in 1975.

In 1980, he was appointed private secretary to the papal envoy in the United Kingdom, Archbishop Bruno Heim. He also served Heim’s successor, Archbishop Luigi Barbarito.

From 1994 to 2001, Conry was the Director of the Catholic Media Office in London, the press office of the Bishop’s Conference of England & Wales, and also Editor of Briefing, the Bishop’s official journal.

Pope St. John Paul II named him the fourth bishop of Arundel and Brighton on May 8, 2001.