Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignation Friday of Catholic U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who was named in a grand jury investigation that detailed incidents of child sex abuse.
Wuerl, who'd served as a bishop in Pittsburgh, came under fire when he was named in the Aug. 14 grand jury report that accused Catholic leaders of covering up past cases of abuse. It named more than 300 priests.
Wuerl submitted his resignation to the pope last month. Friday, the pontiff accepted.
In a letter accepting the resignation Friday, Francis said Wuerl has "nobility" and said he would continue leading the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C, on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is found.
"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," Francis said.
"However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you."
"Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church," he added.
Wuerl said in a statement Friday the pope's acceptance of his resignation could help pave a new way forward for the church.
"The Holy Father's decision to provide new leadership to the Archdiocese can allow all of the faithful, clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future," he said.
"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."
Wuerl, now 77, had originally submitted his resignation two years ago, as required by cannon law.
Wuerl, Pittsburgh's bishop from 1988 to 2006, was accused in the grand jury report of allowing accused priests to remain in the ministry. The report led to protests demanding his resignation.