Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington, D.C., the Vatican said on Friday, making him one of the most senior Catholic figures to step down in a worldwide sexual abuse crisis.
But, in a glowing letter of support, Francis makes clear that he accepted Wuerl’s resignation reluctantly, at Wuerl’s insistence, and that he believes Wuerl is not guilty of wrongdoing.
In a highly unusual move, Francis asked Wuerl, who keeps the title of cardinal, to stay on as administrator until another archbishop could be appointed. Usually the new bishop is announced at the same time of his predecessor’s resignation.
Wuerl has been a key ally of Francis, defending the pontiff from attacks by conservatives in the Church, some of whom say the pope should resign over the sexual abuse crisis.
The Washington position is the most important and visible for the Church in the United States because of its proximity to…