Pope accepts Donald Wuerl's resignation as Washington DC archbishop

Satan working overtime to destroy Church says Pope

The pope indicated his full support for the outgoing archbishop, saying Wuerl made his request to stand down - amid mounting pressure - based, "on two pillars that have marked and continue to mark your ministry: to seek in all things the greater glory of God, and to procure the good of the people trusted to your care". But cardinals are often allowed to serve until they are 80.

With his resignation on Friday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl became one of the highest ranking Catholic leaders to step aside over global accusations that the Church harbored sex abusers.

The Pittsburgh native spent more than 50 years climbing the ranks of the Catholic Church, building a reputation as a loyal churchman and scrupulous teacher.

On the abuse crisis, Wuerl also would have been as among the more aggressive American bishops in supporting and implementing a "zero tolerance" policy - ironically, a reputation that reached back to his time as the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.

However, because they were only rumors and not proof, then-Pope Benedict XVI never imposed formal sanctions on the retired Washington prelate, which means Pope Francis never lifted them, Cardinal Ouellet wrote October 7 in an open letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican nuncio to the United States.

In the document, the archbishop claimed he told Francis during a meeting on June 23 2013 that Pope Benedict XVI had sanctioned McCarrick to a lifetime of penance and prayer for having "corrupted a generation of seminarians and priests". As for not attempting to defend himself, Wuerl didn't mind when the archdiocesan office did it for him. In a document in April on holiness in the modern world, Francis mentioned the devil more than a dozen times. Usually a new bishop is announced at the same time as such a resignation.

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The Washington position is the most important and visible for the Church in the United States because of its proximity to national political power.

In it, Ouellet both defended the pope and excoriated Vigano, asserting that the conservative cleric had used the scandal over sexual abuse in the U.S.to score ideological points with Francis' critics on the Catholic right. "Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologise and ask for pardon". He also thanked Wuerl for "actions that support, stimulate and make the unity and mission of the Church grow above every kind of sterile division sown by the father of lies".

Cardinal DiNardo's October 7 statement was a response to the Vatican's announcement that it would review its files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop McCarrick, who has been accused in recent months of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually coercing and assaulting priests and seminarians during decades of ministry as a bishop.

Donald Wuerl will reportedly retain his title of cardinal and continue in his role until a successor is found.

Francis ordered McCarrick to retire to a life of prayer and penitence after American Church officials said as part of a separate investigation that allegations that McCarrick had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago were credible and substantiated.

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