Pope accepts resignation of Cardinal Donal Wuerl

Pope accepts embattled DC cardinal's resignation

But critics say Francis has been more talk than action.

Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal Wuerl to help direct the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

Allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy worldwide continue to affect the Church.

In a letter accepting the resignation Friday, Francis said Wuerl has "nobility" and said he would continue leading the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C, on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is found. In it, the pope praised the cardinal's "nobility" in choosing to resign, saying "you make clear the intent to put God's Project first, before any kind of personal project, including what could be considered as good for the Church".

"Of this, I am proud and thank you".

The cardinal has also been accused of knowing about sexual misconduct by his predecessor in Washington, ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The letter said Wuerl made some "mistakes" in dealing with sex abuse cases.

But Francis kept him on, as popes tend to do with able-bodied bishops who share their pastoral priorities.

"We can't rely on the church to fix itself", Shapiro said.

Francis saw Wuerl as that shepherd, a force for unity.

Benjamin Sweet, a lawyer representing victims of clergy sex abuse, was skeptical about Wuerl's decision to step down.

"My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington", the cardinal said in a letter.

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On Saturday, Francis ordered an investigation into the Vatican archives over the allegations. "We are going to each be asked to speak our mind on what we think needs to be done", he said. He has served on a number of Vatican congregations, councils and commissions, as well as numerous national and global organizations such as the Papal Foundation and various committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Wuerl has been archbishop of Washington for the past 12 years.

"That wasn't - that wasn't our process", Wuerl responded the night before the report's release.

He arrived in Pittsburgh, a possible steppingstone to greater things, in 1988, just as the diocese had removed two priests accused of molesting altar boys.

In a September 11 letter to archdiocesan priests written after a private meeting with them, Cardinal Wuerl said that he would soon meet with the Pope to discuss his future, but did not immediately state that he would ask the Holy Father to allow him to resign.

Patty Fortney-Julius, one of five sisters from central Pennsylvania who have accused their now-dead parish priest of sexually abusing them as children, also voiced frustrations. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1966 and went on to receive a doctorate in 1974.

But cases from that era ultimately forced him to resign. As for not attempting to defend himself, Wuerl didn't mind when the archdiocesan office did it for him.

Shapiro said in a written statement that it was "unacceptable that Wuerl is retiring with no apparent consequences".

But it soon became clear that he would become the biggest target of outrage over the Pennsylvania report.

Wuerl, Pittsburgh's bishop from 1988 to 2006, was accused in the grand jury report of allowing accused priests to remain in the ministry.

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