Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is implicated in a sex abuse cover-up scandal.
The Vatican Press Office announced the news Friday.
Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, technically tendered his resignation upon reaching age 75, as all Catholic bishops and cardinals do. But cardinals are often allowed to serve until they are 80.
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.
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. Known as a key ally of Pope Francis, Wuerl sits on the Vatican committee that vets and appoints bishops around the world.
But after a damning 900-page report by a grand jury in Pennsylvania and a letter from a former top Vatican official accusing Wuerl of covering up for his disgraced predecessor, the cardinal faced increasing pressure to step down from his perch atop the church’s hierarchy.
The Archdiocese of Washington vigorously defended Wuerl, sending detailed explanations of his actions to area clergy and pushing back against accusations that he failed to deal adequately with pedophile priests while he was the bishop of Pittsburgh.