VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday accepted the resignation of a leading bishop from his German homeland who is accused of abusing children and possible financial misconduct at a children's home.

Augsburg Bishop Walter Mixa, an outspoken conservative voice in the German church and a military chaplain for Germany, has admitted slapping children decades ago when he was a priest.

But the pressure on him to step down increased on Friday, when German officials said prosecutors were investigating him over what an Augsburg area paper said was an alleged case of sexual abuse.

The terse Vatican announcement on Saturday cited no resignation for accepting the resignation of Mixa, who offered to step down two weeks ago amid persistent allegations that he hit children while a priest decades ago and of financial irregularities at a children's home. The statement simply said that Mixa's resignation was accepted under a canon law regulation that allows a bishop to go if he has become "unfit" for service.

Mixa is the latest in a line of churchman to be toppled as the Vatican reels from allegations that bishops and other church hierarchy systematically covered up physical or sexual abuse of minors in several European countries. In some cases, like that of Mixa, bishops have themselves been accused of committing the abuse.

Mixa's attorney was quoted by the Augsburger Allgemeine on Friday as saying the bishop "resolutely denied" the allegations of alleged sexual abuse.

German prosecutors have declined to give details.

In the earlier allegations, which prompted Mixa to offer to step down and ask forgiveness of "those whom I may have caused heartache," the bishop was accused of hitting children.
He initially denied ever using violence against youngsters but later, after intense pressure, said he may have slapped children.

The case, coming in the country of Benedict's birth and involving a prelate who was a key member of Germany's bishops conference for more than a decade, was particularly embarrassing for the German church and German faithful, who, church authorities say, have been leaving in droves since abuse allegations started surfacing in recent months.

Benedict on Saturday met at the Vatican with bishops from Belgium, where the church has also been rocked by recent allegations of abuse by priests and clumsy, slow handling of the cases by the bishops.

Churches in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and even in Nordic countries, where Catholics are a small minority, have been grappling with a steady stream of abuse allegations.

The latest scandals followed Benedict's scathing blame earlier this year of Irish bishops, after a government-led probe of church abuse in heavily Catholic Ireland turned up decades of systematic sexual and physical abuse of children in parishes, orphanages, schools and workhouses by priests, brothers and nuns, and cover-ups by church hierarchy.