VATICAN CITY, November 25, 2010 ( – Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Luiz Carlos Eccel, the bishop of Caçador, Brazil, under a provision in the canon law permitting early retirement for “reasons of health or other grave reasons.”

Eccel leaves office at the age of 58 under a cloud of controversy following his decision to support Dilma Rousseff during her runoff election for president earlier this year. Rousseff came under heavy fire during the campaign for her previous support for the decriminalization of abortion, a position she partially retracted when her election bid was seriously threatened by a pro-life internet campaign.

Rousseff’s history as a pro-abortion feminists led a number of bishops to explicitly call on voters not to vote for her or the socialist Worker’s Party. The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops issued a statement during the campaign reminding Catholics that a candidate’s position on human life issues was crucial for determining their vote.

However, Eccel remained an open supporter of Rousseff, even following an intervention by Pope Benedict XVI, who told Brazilian bishops visiting him during the election that it was “false and illusory” to defend human rights and omit “the right to life from conception to natural death.” He added in that context that “on certain occasions, pastors should remind all citizens of the right, which is also an obligation, to freely use the vote itself for the promotion of the common good.”  Eccel’s stance led to denunciations by pro-life Catholics and even a call for his excommunication by Brazilian political columnist Olavo de Carvalho.

Sources close to the bishop told the Brazilian media that his decision to retire is not connected to the controversy surrounding his endorsement of Rousseff, but rather to health problems that had plagued the bishop since before the elections. They claim that Eccel submitted his resignation before the controversy began.