Washington Cardinal Wuerl apologizes to faithful

Pope Francis meets U.S. Catholic Church leaders at the Vatican

Wuerl said in a statement that he was "deeply touched" by the pope's letter and that his replacement would "allow all of the faithful, clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future".

Finally, Cardinal Wuerl "once again" apologized and asked for forgiveness for "any past errors in judgement". The devil is alive and well and working overtime to destroy the Roman Catholic Church, said Pope Francis. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defence.

"In response to your unjust and unjustified attack, dear Vigano, I conclude that your accusation is a political setup without any real foundation that could incriminate the pope, and I repeat that it has profoundly wounded the communion of the church", Ouellet wrote.

Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis almost three years ago, when he turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops.

The reason such measures were not taken then and were only taken in June by Pope Francis, Cardinal Ouellet said, was because there was not "sufficient proof of his presumed guilt".

But, Cardinal Ouellet said, rumors about Archbishop McCarrick did reach the Vatican years ago, so both he and his predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, made requests to Archbishop McCarrick "not to travel or to make public appearances, in order to avoid new rumors about him". The report mentioned Wuerl more than 150 times in its investigation in detailing the cases of several priests who were allowed to continue their ministry despite complaints about sexual abuse, in several cases with Wuerl's direct knowledge. Years later, according to the report, six more people alleged that they were sexually assaulted by O'Malley, in some cases after he had been reinstated.

The Vatican was informed starting in at least 2000 about the seminarian complaints. It permits this local Church to move forward.

In it, Cardinal Ouellet both defended the pope and criticised Archbishop Vigano, asserting that the conservative cleric had used the scandal over sexual abuse in the U.S. to score ideological points with Francis' critics on the Catholic right.

Those factors led to calls for Cardinal Wuerl's resignation and demonstrations outside of his Washington residence.

A sweeping USA grand jury report released in August revealed credible allegations against more than 300 predator priests and identified over 1,000 victims of child sex abuse covered up for decades by the Catholic Church in the state of Pennsylvania. I understand that bitterness and delusions have been a part of your journey in service to the Holy See, but you can not conclude your priestly life in this way, in open and scandalous rebellion, which is inflicting a very painful wound on the Bride of Christ, whom you claim to serve better, thus aggravating the division and confusion in the People of God!

Victims advocacy groups were outraged. But he said it would likely do little to deter others in the hierarchy from covering up for abusers.

Born in Pittsburgh on November 12, 1940, Wuerl was ordained a priest in 1966 and later served as secretary to Pittsburgh Bishop John Wright, even following him to Rome when the bishop was named head of the Vatican's clergy dicastery and made a cardinal.

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