Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl after his handling of abusive priests in the 1990s caused a widespread outcry. The Vatican press office announced the move without explaining the reasons behind the decision, but the cleric said in a statement he hoped it would allow the Washington church to “move forward.” The handling of clergy-abuse cases has come under renewed scrutiny after a Vatican ambassador released a document in August alleging a systemic coverup of allegations against Theodore McCarrick, Wuerl’s predecessor in Washington. Wuerl, who is 77 and was appointed to his role in Washington by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, was named in a recent Pennsylvania grand-jury report that accused church leaders of covering up abuse. He said he expected to keep his position in Vatican offices.
Hours after the announcement, Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh diocese released a statement on the resignation. “Cardinal Wuerl, who served the people of Pittsburgh for 18 years as our Bishop, requested that Pope Francis allowed him to step-down as Archbishop of Washington for the healing of victims of abuse and their families and for the good of the Church,” Zubik wrote. “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.”