In July, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a former Washington DC archbishop and a high-profile Catholic leader, resigned amid allegations that he sexually abused children and adults for decades.
In a highly unusual move, Francis asked Wuerl, who keeps the title of cardinal, to stay on as administrator of the Washington diocese until another archbishop could be appointed.
Wuerl has defended his overall record in Pittsburgh insisting he had a good past record, but progresivelly came to the conclusion that he could no longer lead the archdiocese.
Cardinal Wuerl asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation on several occasions since the Pennsylvania report, but the pope demurred until now, according to a church official with knowledge of the discussions.
"You have sufficient elements to "justify" your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes".
"However", the letter continued, "your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense".
"I cannot understand how you could have allowed yourself to be convinced of this monstrous accusation which has no standing".
Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis almost three years ago, when he turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops. 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.
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In contrast to the accusations made against him in the report from the Pennsylvania grand jury, Wuerl had been applauded in the past for publicly cracking down on members of the clergy who were accused of sexual abuse in the '80s and '90s. Simultaneously, Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.
The report criticised Cardinal Wuerl for his role in concealing the abuse. Most of the victims were boys, of which half were 13 or less years. Wuerl denies having been aware.
The Vatican was informed starting in at least 2000 about the seminarian complaints.
McCarrick, 88, resigned in July after the Vatican said there were grounds to an allegation that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago.
Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement.
The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the United States church, and it covered six diocese in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh.
As for the written instructions the Congregation for Bishops prepared for Archbishop Vigano in 2011 when he was to begin his service as nuncio to the United States, "they say nothing at all about McCarrick".
"It is false to present the measures taken in his regard as "sanctions" decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and revoked by Pope Francis", Ouellett said in an open letter to Vigano. He joined the priesthood in 1966, was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1986, and served briefly as auxiliary bishop in Seattle before going to Pittsburgh.