With the resignation, Wuerl becomes the most prominent head to roll in the scandal roiling the Catholic Church after his predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, was forced to resign as cardinal over allegations he sexually abused at least two minors and adult seminarians. The report accused Wuerl of helping to protect accused priests and coverup their abuses during his tenure as a bishop in Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. They included a letter from the archdiocesan chancellor, Kim Vitti Fiorentino, who lamented that Wuerl's "pioneering leadership in the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of historically innovative child protection policies was overshadowed by the (Pennsylvania grand jury) report's flaws and its interpretation by the media".
Following the report's release, Cardinal Wuerl said while the Grand Jury "may be critical of some of my actions" he stressed it "confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse".
Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis almost three years ago, when he turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops.
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.
"However", the letter continued, "your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense". The pope indicated his full support for the outgoing archbishop, saying Wuerl made his request to stand down - amid mounting pressure - based, "on two pillars that have marked and continue to mark your ministry: to seek in all things the greater glory of God, and to procure the good of the people trusted to your care". And during the cardinal's 18 years as bishop of Pittsburgh, he said, "there were no cover-ups of claims of abuse".
It seems remarkable to Shaw that Pope Francis has failed to use this opportunity to distance himself from the "nightmarish, interconnected abuse allegations and convictions" rocking the Catholic Church in the USA.
Although leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington is yet uncertain, Byrne said, "we are in a time where the sun is actually rising, it's not setting".
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"It permits this local Church to move forward".
On Labor Day, Wuerl met with the priests in his archdiocese.
It has been widely believed that Cardinal Wuerl hoped to remain in his position at least until the fall meeting of the USA bishops' conference in November.
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.
However, Wuerl did indeed justify his actions as Bishop of Pittsburgh. Pope Francis has asked that Wuerl remain in his role as archbishop of Washington until a successor can be named. He'll be in charge in the DC archdiocese until the Vatican appoints a new archbishop to replace him. In this capacity, Wuerl attended the 1978 conclave that elected Pope St. John Paul II as an aide to the ailing Cardinal Wright.
In a glowing letter of support, Francis made clear that he accepted Wuerl's resignation reluctantly, at Wuerl's insistence, and believed he was not guilty of trying to hide abuse. He said Wuerl's resignation is "long overdue".
"A number of dioceses across the world called to ask if they could use part or all of the plan", Timoney said.