While he maintained a relatively low political profile in Washington, Wuerl's resignation caps a stunning fall from grace for one of the world's most powerful Catholic leaders.
Wuerl had originally resigned on his 75th birthday, November 12, 2015, as is the custom among Catholic bishops.
Cardinal Wuerl was recently criticised in a report on sexual abuse cases when he was bishop of Pittsburgh and admitted to lapses in judgement.
Six weeks after Archbishop Vigano threw the papacy into turmoil over his claims about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the head of the Vatican's bishops' office said there was no evidence in his files backing the archbishop's claims that Francis annulled any sanctions against McCarrick.
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". The Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August found more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children since 1947. They included a letter from the archdiocesan chancellor Kim Vitti Fiorentino, who lamented that Wuerl's "pioneering leadership in the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of historically innovative child protection policies was overshadowed by the (Pennsylvania grand jury) report's flaws and its interpretation by the media". He discerned in Wuerl's request "the heart of the shepherd.who prioritizes actions that support, stimulate and make the unity of the Church grow above every kind of sterile division sown by the father of lies who, trying to hurt the shepherd, wants nothing more than that the sheep be dispersed". Wuerl has defended his overall record in Pittsburgh.
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Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican-based Congregation for Bishops, issued a public three-page letter on October 7 censuring the former Vatican nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, for attacking Pope Francis. Usually a new bishop is announced at the same time as such a resignation.
"We unite in prayer and service with His Holiness as he leads the Church to meet our brothers and sisters in their suffering". "Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon". "My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington".
Pope Francis is now calling on Catholics worldwide to pray through the month in a bid to fight back the devil and protect the Church.
It is noted that now deepens the polarization between conservatives and liberals in the Church. His loyalty no doubt helps explain why Francis went out of his way today to shower Wuerl with praise, saying, among other things, he's putting "the good of the Church" above his own personal interests.
Archbishop Vigano had claimed he personally informed Pope Francis in June 2013 that in "2009 or 2010", after Cardinal McCarrick had retired, Pope Benedict imposed sanctions on him because of allegations of sexual misconduct with and sexual harassment of seminarians. Wuerl denies having been aware.