Pope accepts Cardinal Wuerl's resignation

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Wuerl called the pope's letter a "very, very beautiful" recognition of his effort to put his flock before himself, but added that the pope, in choosing his replacement, would select a bishop who began serving after the American church adopted new guidelines in 2002 to prevent and punish abuse. I am profoundly grateful for his devoted commitment to the well-being of the Archdiocese of Washington and also deeply touched by his gracious words of understanding.

Cardinal Ouellet concluded, "May God allow a prompt reparation of this flagrant injustice so that Pope Francis can continue to be recognized for who he is: a true shepherd, a resolute and compassionate father, a prophetic grace for the Church and for the world. He only cares about 'his people, '" said Becky Ianni, a Washington-area leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

A sweeping US 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.

Francis said he received Wuerl's resignation request on September 21.

In his letter, the pope also defended the cardinal against accusations of cover-up of sexual abuse, saying there is a difference between covering up and making "mistakes". A confidant of Pope Francis, he was seen as one of the more liberal USA bishops and a strong advocate for social justice and tolerance.

McCarrick resigned in disgrace from the College of Cardinals in July, responding to "credible and substantiated" allegations of sexual misdeeds and to revelations that two dioceses in New Jersey had made financial settlements with priests who alleged McCarrick abused them sexually when they were seminarians.

John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, said the Pope's letter about Wuerl send mixed messages because the cardinal's record on abuse was itself mixed.

But other observers counter that the question of whether Cardinal Wuerl should step down goes beyond his individual guilt or innocence in Pittsburgh. "I also beg forgiveness on behalf of church leadership from the victims who were again wounded when they saw these priests and bishops both moved and promoted".

It has been widely believed that Cardinal Wuerl hoped to remain in his position at least until the fall meeting of the US bishops' conference in November. In his first months as bishop, after the priests were charged with more than 100 counts of abuse, he formed a review board at the diocese level.

Wuerl was appointed to his role in Washington by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

This development leaves Cardinal Wuerl the biggest name within the Catholic Church to resign over a growing sexual abuse scandal.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to more than 655,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 93 Catholic schools, located in the District of Columbia and in the five surrounding Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George's and St. Mary's. Nonetheless, many people in the Catholic community lost faith in Wuerl's leadership and soon the cardinal reached the conclusion that he could no longer lead the archdiocese.

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