VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is implicated in the sex abuse cover-up scandal.
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A Vatican statement Friday said Francis had accepted Wuerl's resignation, but named no replacement; Wuerl's office said he had been asked to stay on in a temporary capacity until a new archbishop is found.
CLICK HERE to read the full Vatican statement.
Wuerl, the former bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, has been scrutinized since the release of a grand jury report on child sex abuse by priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
Earlier today, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, accepted my resignation as Archbishop of Washington that I first offered almost three years ago. Read his beautiful letter and my statement here: https://t.co/iIoPrGgU86— Cardinal Wuerl (@Cardinal_Wuerl) October 12, 2018
Wuerl, 77, was named nearly 200 times for his alleged involvement in the cover-up. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik released the following statement regarding the acceptance of Wuerl's resignation:
Cardinal Wuerl, who served the people of Pittsburgh for 18 years as our bishop, requested that Pope Francis allow him to step-down as Archbishop of Washington for the healing of the victims of abuse and their families and for the good of the Church. For as long as I have known Cardinal Wuerl, he has advocated for those within the church and beyond who need the opportunity for a better life. I pray that the acceptance of his resignation today by Pope Francis will continue to bring about healing in the hearts and lives of victims of abuse and all those in the Church.
Wuerl served as bishop for the Diocese of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. After the August release of the grand jury report, calls for his resignation began.
Parishioners in the Pittsburgh area said they knew the moment was coming.
“Only God can judge him. We cannot judge him. Nobody can judge him,” Ann Reynolds, of Mount Washington, said. “His life from here on in is what he makes of it and what God has in store for him.”
In light of the grand jury report and a petition, Wuerl’s name was removed from North Catholic High School. His name had been added to the school in 2013 when it moved from Pittsburgh Troy Hill neighborhood to Cranberry Township.
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In a September letter entitled “To Begin the Healing,” Wuerl said he was prepared to step down as archbishop of Washington.
“Those called to serve the Church in a leadership capacity must recognize that we are to lead not only by word, but also by personal action,” Wuerl said in the letter. “We must be prepared to do whatever is needed, including stepping aside. This action on my part is an essential aspect of the healing so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.”
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Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis nearly three years ago, when he turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops. But Francis kept him on, as popes tend to do with able-bodied bishops who share their pastoral priorities.
Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, 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.
In June, McCarrick was found by the church to be credibly accused of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 50 years ago.
Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.
Wuerl was born in Pittsburgh, attended Catholic University in Washington and received a doctorate in theology from the University of Saint Thomas in Rome. 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2018 Cox Media Group.