Pope accepts resignation of Cardinal Donal Wuerl

"One would expect, then, a carefully-worded and diplomatic send-off from the Pope on such an occasion, but Pope Francis' letter goes far beyond this".

We urge all in the Church, particularly the bishops, to reaffirm our communion with Pope Francis who is the visible guarantor of the communion of the Catholic church.

The cardinal was also accused in August by a former apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, of lying "shamelessly" in stating that he did not know about now ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of seminarians. "My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington".

However, the grand jury documented other cases where accused priests in Pittsburgh were allowed to return to parish work.

Here are excerpts of the letter, in which Francis asks Wuerl to remain on in a temporary position until his successor is found.

Wuerl called the pope's letter a "very, very beautiful" recognition and noted that this decision will "permit this local church to move forward". However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. At the time, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. said "Cardinal Wuerl understands that healing from the abuse crisis requires a new beginning and this includes new leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington".

"No bishop or cardinal in the nation has had a more consistent and courageous record than Donald Wuerl in addressing priestly sexual abuse", contends Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League. Despite accepting the resignation, Francis also praised Wuerl's "nobility" and said he was "proud" of him.

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He wrote: "I strongly doubt that McCarrick concerned him (Francis) to the degree you'd like to think, given he was an 82-year-old emeritus archbishop who had been out of a job for seven years".

For the last five years, Wuerl has also been the single most important voice within the U.S. hierarchy defending Pope Francis, at a time when some other American bishops and Catholic leaders have struck discordant notes. He joined the priesthood in 1966 and was ordained a bishop in 1986 by Pope John Paul II in 1986. It refers first of all to the "due pontifical permission" the cardinal received to write his testimony as head of the dicastery for bishops, as well as to undertake research in the archives of the Congregation.

Cardinal Wuerl's episcopal career appears to be ending in as much controversy as it began when he became an auxiliary bishop in Seattle in 1986.

"The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues", a statement from the Vatican said, The New York Times reported "However, as Pope Francis has said: 'We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead'".

Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement.

Timoney, who worked for several years in the Archdiocese of Washington as the secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns, told OSV that Cardinal Wuerl was a natural "teaching bishop" who wrote several books, including the catechisms, "The Teaching of Christ" and "The Catholic Way".

  • Sonia Alvarado