Pope Francis accepts resignation of U.S. cardinal

Lester Mason
October 13, 2018

The 77-year-old embattled traveled to Rome in September to ask Pope Francis to accept the resignation letter that he submitted nearly three years ago upon reaching the customary retirement age of 75. Friday, the pontiff accepted. The pope also praised Cardinal Wuerl's "nobility" in choosing to step down rather than defend his record under fire. "Of this, I am proud and thank you", Pope Francis says in the letter. "Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church".

After his resignation was announced October 12, Cardinal Wuerl said in a statement: "Once again for any past errors in judgment, I apologize and ask for pardon". Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon.

While he maintained a relatively low political profile in Washington, Wuerl's resignation caps a stunning fall from grace for one of the world's most powerful Catholic leaders.

Cardinal Wuerl replaced Cardinal McCarrick as Washington's archbishop after he retired in 2006.

Wuerl, who'd served as a bishop in Pittsburgh, came under fire when he was named in the August 14 grand jury report that accused Catholic leaders of covering up past cases of abuse.

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

In July McCarrick became the first cardinal in about 100 years to be stripped of his red hat and title of "eminence". Wuerl at times acted with authority to deal with abusive priests (more on this below), but in several cases allowed such priests to escape scrutiny and in a few to continue as priests in good standing elsewhere - and to continue abusing others. The pope cited Cardinal Wuerl's "nobility" and announced that the 77-year-old prelate would stay on as the archdiocese's caretaker until the appointment of his successor.


Wuerl, who is considered a moderate and a supporter of Francis' style of papacy, spoke in the interview about the constructive role he hoped to play at the annual meeting of American bishops in November.

Allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy worldwide continue to affect the Church.

"We believe that Cardinal Wuerl's decision to request that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, accept the resignation he first offered years ago is a clear manifestation of his love and concern for the people of this archdiocese", wrote Bishops Mario Dorsonville, Roy Campbell Jr. and Michael Fisher.

Kim Viti Fiorentino, the chancellor and general counsel of the Archdiocese of Washington, said in a statement October 12 that the archdiocese has "been profoundly blessed to have this great priest as our archbishop". "When Archbishop Carlo Viganò wrote that Cardinal Wuerl "lies shamelessly" in his "testimony" published in late August, it confirmed conclusions that many Washington priests had already arrived at".

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 Vatican's highest court ordered Wuerl to restore Cipolla to priestly ministry, but Wuerl resisted and, after two years of legal procedures, prevailed in preventing Cipolla's return. The report mentioned Wuerl's name more than 200 times.

On a personal note, I convey my gratitude to Cardinal Wuerl for the fraternal support he has extended to me from the moment I was appointed bishop and throughout the years. For his part, Bishop Wuerl was sent back to his native Pittsburgh, where he was installed as the diocesan bishop in March 1988.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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