A Vatican statement said Friday that Francis had accepted Wuerl's resignation, but named no replacement.
A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Cardinal Wuerl studied at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
The Archdiocese of Washington released a letter from Francis, saying that Wuerl had sufficient evidence to "justify" his actions as a bishop and to "distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes". However, the cardinal added, "I told you verbally of the situation of the bishop emeritus who was to observe certain conditions and restrictions because of rumors about his behavior in the past".
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.
Despite accepting the resignation, Francis also praised Wuerl's "nobility" and said he was "proud" of him. By making it clear he thought Wuerl had served the church well, they said, Francis sent yet another mixed message on a topic that has shaken faith in the church's leadership around the world. Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon.
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The Pope noted in his letter Friday that he had received a September 21 request from Cardinal Wuerl that his resignation be accepted and lauded the prelate for having sought the good of the Church.
After re-examining the archives, I can ascertain that there are no corresponding documents signed by either Pope, neither is there a note of an audience with my predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re, giving Archbishop Emeritus McCarrick an obligatory mandate of silence and to retire to a private life, carrying canonical penalties.
Wuerl has defended his overall record in Pittsburgh.
Born in Pittsburgh on November 12, 1940, Wuerl was ordained a priest in 1966 and later served as secretary to Pittsburgh Bishop John Wright, even following him to Rome when the bishop was named head of the Vatican's clergy dicastery and made a cardinal.
"Out of respect for the victims and given the need for justice, the inquiry now underway in the United States and in the Roman Curia should provide a comprehensive and critical study of the procedures and the circumstances of this painful case in order to prevent something like it from ever happening in the future", Cardinal Ouellet said.
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A grand jury report issued in August on rampant sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses accused Wuerl of helping to protect some child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. The appointment generated serious conflict among Archbishop Hunthausen's supporters, and Bishop Wuerl was relieved of his responsibility in 1987.
Now, Washingtonians await the news of a new bishop to take the helm of a storm-tossed archdiocese.
"Repent of your revolt", the cardinal wrote before asking, "How can you celebrate the holy Eucharist and pronounce his (the pope's) name in the canon of the Mass?"
Cardinal DiNardo said he and all the USA bishops "offer our prayers and solidarity for the Holy Father".
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