Pope Francis accepts resignation of D.C. archbishop Wuerl, amid criticism of the cardinal’s handling of abuse claims

By Michelle Boorstein, Chico Harlan, and Julie Zauzmer

Pope Francis on Friday accepted the resignation of Washington’s archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a trusted papal ally who became a symbol among many Catholics for what they regard as the church’s defensive and weak response to sexual abuse by priests.

But even as Wuerl becomes one of the highest-profile prelates to step down in a year of prominent abuse scandals, Pope Francis offered the cardinal a gentle landing, praising him in a letter and allowing him to stay on as “apostolic administrator” in the Washington archdiocese until a successor is found.

In his letter, Francis suggested that he had accepted Wuerl’s resignation reluctantly, and said he saw in the cardinal’s request the “heart of a shepherd.” Francis did not criticize Wuerl’s handling of abuse cases, and wrote that Wuerl had “sufficient elements” to defend his actions.

“However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense,” Francis wrote. “Of this, I am proud and thank you.”

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