Pope Francis praises resigning US Cardinal amid sexual abuse cover-up allegations

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In his letter accepting the resignation, Francis said he recognized that in asking to retire, Wuerl had put the interests and unity of his flock ahead of his own ambitions, as all shepherds must do.

"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".

He added: "However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense".

Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl is apologizing to Catholics in his archdiocese after Pope Francis accepted his resignation as archbishop amid unfolding sex abuse and coverup scandals.

"On behalf of my brother bishops in the United States, I welcome the statement of October 6 from the Holy See which outlines additional steps Pope Francis is taking to ensure the faithful are protected from the evil of sexual assault", Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo said in a statement released October 7 in Rome.

Wuerl, who is 77, may have resigned, but he won't be disappearing from church leadership just yet.

The cardinal, who will turn 78 on the 2 November, had submitted his resignation to the Pope nearly three years ago in accordance with the Church law which requires bishops to offer their retirement at age 75.

After stepping down as archbishop of Washington in 2006, McCarrick "had been strongly advised not to travel and not to appear in public, so as not to provoke additional rumours in his regard".

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Francis also asked Wuerl to stay on as administrator until another archbishop is appointed.

After the cardinal made a trip to Rome in late August, media reports said that Pope Francis had instructed the cardinal to consult with Washington clergy about the best way forward for him and the archdiocese.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet issued a letter Sunday six weeks after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed that the pope protected ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. I strongly doubt that McCarrick was of interest to him to the point that you believed him to be, since at the moment he was an 82-year-old Archbishop Emeritus who had been without an appointment for seven years.

Cardinal Ouellet's letter was issued a day after Francis authorised a "thorough study" of all Vatican archives into how McCarrick rose through the ranks of the Catholic Church despite allegations he sexually preyed on seminarians and young priests.

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

In August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a grand jury report detailing sexual abuse. He has served on a number of Vatican congregations, councils and commissions, as well as numerous national and worldwide organizations such as the Papal Foundation and various committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In 2005, two New Jersey dioceses gave settlements to two men who said they had been sexually molested or harassed by McCarrick.

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".

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