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Pope rejects German bishop’s offer to quit over abuse

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Pope Francis holds an ordination mass on April 25, 2021 at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, during which he is to ordain nine priests for his diocese as bishop of Rome. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Pope Francis on Thursday rejected an offer by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a top German bishop, to resign over the mishandling of sexual abuse and cover-up scandals.

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“Continue as you propose (in your pastoral work) but as Archbishop of Munich and Freising,” the pope wrote to Marx, referring to the position he was offering to vacate.

Marx announced earlier this month that he had offered the pope his resignation over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in handling child sex abuse scandals.

The stunning decision came after the church in Germany, like in many places elsewhere, was shaken by allegations of wide-ranging abuse by clergymen against minors.

In his letter, the pope agreed with Marx in calling the clerical sexual abuse scandals “a catastrophe” and the way the Catholic Church dealt with them “until recently”.

“The entire Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and “the Church cannot proceed without tackling this crisis. The policy of burying the head in the sand leads nowhere,” he wrote.

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In his original letter to the pope dated May 21 and published on June 4 by his archdiocese, Marx said: “It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”

Investigations and reports had “consistently shown there have been many personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or ‘systemic’ failure,” added Marx, who was president of the German Bishops’ Conference from 2012 to 2020.

Slamming colleagues who “refuse to believe there is a shared responsibility in this respect”, he said the Church was at “a dead end”.

Marx — who was never personally accused of abuse or cover up, and who would have remained a cardinal even if Francis had allowed him to quit as archbishop — added that he hoped his resignation would offer a new beginning for the Church.

Speaking to journalists, he confirmed the pope had given him permission to publish the letter and that he would continue in his role until he received a response to his offer.

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