THE Bishop of Chester has delegated responsibility for leading on all safeguarding matters after it emerged his Diocese had covered up a vicar’s child abuse 10 years ago.

Dr Peter Forster has faced calls to resign from his post after the actions of former Warrington vicar Charles Gordon Dickenson came to light this month.

Chester Crown Court heard that Dickenson had passed a confession letter to the Diocese of Chester in 2009, on Bishop Forster’s watch.

It is not yet known if the bishop was directly aware of the letter or if there had been a breakdown in communication before news of its existence reached him.

In a statement released yesterday (Thursday, March 28) he says he will not make any further public comments until the end of an inquiry by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team.

He said: “I have asked the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair, to lead on all safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese of Chester and have formally delegated this responsibility to him with immediate effect.

"I have taken this decision in response to recent comment into my handling of the Gordon Dickenson case in 2009.

"An independent review will seek to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned and I look forward to contributing to the review and to giving a full account of my actions in relation to this matter.

"The Diocese of Chester takes seriously its safeguarding responsibilities at every level. Whilst an independent review into my actions takes place, I recognise that I should not continue to lead the safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese.

"I will continue in all other duties relating to my role of Bishop of Chester.

"I will not be making any further public comments in relation to this matter until the outcome of the independent review."

Dickenson, 89, a former vicar at Christ Church in Latchford, Warrington, was jailed earlier this month after he admitted eight counts of sexual assault against a boy in the 1970s.

During their investigation, detectives at Cheshire Police discovered the Church of England had missed two opportunities to report the paedophile vicar.

The first was in the 1970s when former Bishop of Chester Victor Whitsey – himself subsequently linked to child abuse - simply moved him to a different parish when he was told about the abuse.

The second was in 2009 when the Diocese failed to notify police of Dickenson’s confession letter.

The church has vowed to investigate its failings and apologised to Dickenson’s victim, who was in court to see his abuser sentenced.

The Standard reported this week that Bishop Forster is due to retire next March, which may be before the conclusion of the inquiry.

A spokesman for the Church’s National Safeguarding Team said details of the inquiry would be announced “very soon”.