Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, conference vice president, also is in Rome for the synod, and the two USA leaders were expected to meet privately with Pope Francis Oct. 8 as questions continue over the handling of years of allegations of sexual misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington. In addition, it was hit sexual scandals, in particular in Germany, USA and Chile.
Ouellet's letter also came just a day after the pope approved a "thorough" study of all Vatican archives to investigate how McCarrick managed to be promoted in the Catholic Church despite allegations that he was sexually involved with seminarians and young priests.
Cardinal Wuerl said in a statement: "The Holy Father's decision to provide new leadership to the Archdiocese can allow all of the faithful clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future". "Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon".
In what some are seeing as a slap in the face to those who wanted Wuerl gone, Pope Francis has kept him on as apostolic administrator in Washington, D.C. until a successor is named.
In his letter accepting Wuerl's resignation, the Pope wrote: "You have sufficient elements to "justify" your actions and 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". We urge all in the Church, particularly the bishops, to reaffirm our communion with Pope Francis who is the visible guarantor of the communion of the Catholic church.
In August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a grand jury report detailing sexual abuse. Simultaneously, Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.
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"(The church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past", Pope Francis said, according to Reuters.
The report criticised Cardinal Wuerl for his role in concealing the abuse. But it wasn't until previous year that it was informed of an accusation that he had molested a minor - a far more grave canonical crime than merely sleeping with adult seminarians.
In another case, Wuerl returned a priest to active ministry in 1995 despite having received multiple complaints that the priest, George Zirwas, had molested boys in the late 1980s. In the immediate aftermath of the report's release, the archdiocese published a website attempting to defend Wuerl's record, a move that brought widespread condemnation.
Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, technically tendered his resignation upon reaching age 75, as all Catholic bishops and cardinals do.
Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits on Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. The report covered six diocese in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh when it was led by Wuerl. However, as Pope Francis has said: "We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead" (Philadelphia, Sept. 27, 2015). At the same time, a deepening polarization between conservatives and liberals in the Church has played out on social media.