(CNSNews.com) -- Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who heads the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and has recently come under fire for allegedly shuffling a predator-priest around to different parishes, told his D.C. priests in a letter on Tuesday that he intends to go to Rome and speak with Pope Francis about his resignation.
“I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented nearly three years ago, November 12, 2015,” Wuerl wrote.
The mandatory retirement age for bishops/cardinals is 75, but the Pope does not have to accept the resignation. Pope Francis told Wuerl in 2015 to carry on his duties.
The cardinal has faced mounting criticism by some Church officials and many lay people for his apparent failure to adequately deal with sexually abusive priests when he was the Bishop of Pittsburgh (1988-2006). Also, he has been challenged by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, on what he knew about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s homosexual abuse of seminarians and at least one boy.
In his Sept. 11 letter, Wuerl wrote that he has discerned that his “best course of action” to serve the Church is to resign.
“I was asked by our Holy Father Pope Francis, to discern the best course of action for me to pursue as we face new revelations of the extent of the horror of the clergy abuse of children and the failures in episcopal oversight,” Wuerl wrote.
“It was clear that some decision, sooner rather than later, on my part is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward,” he said.
According to the Catholic Standard, Wuerl chose to send his letter to priests on Tuesday so that the upcoming Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Sept. 14 for a “Season of Healing” “would not be overshadowed by questions about his status.”
Many Catholics, including Deacon James Garcia of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., have placed pressure on Wuerl to resign. In a Sept. 4 letter, Garcia asked Wuerl to “act with courage and humility” and resign.
“I implore you, for the good of the Church we both love so dearly: Act with courage and humility. Relinquish your position as Archbishop without delay,” wrote Garcia.
Garcia also told Wuerl that he will no longer attend the archbishop as a master of ceremony.
“Most Reverend Father, in view of recent developments, I cannot, in good conscience, continue to attend to you personally, whether as an assisting deacon or a master of ceremony,” he said.
Also, LifeSiteNews.com created a petition demanding Wuerl’s resignation.
“As bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl knew about predatory priests and shuffled them to different dioceses, putting more children at risk,” reads the petition. “He wrote to the Vatican about the liability these priests posed to the Church – while keeping their actions hidden from parishioners.”
In his Aug. 22 "Testimony," Archbishop Vigano stated that he personally informed Wuerl about the homosexual practices of Cardinal McCarrick, a claim that Wuerl denies.
"I myself brought up the subject [of McCarrick] with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions, and I certainly didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear to me that he was fully aware of it," said Vigano. "I also remember in particular the fact that I had to draw his attention to it, because I realized that in an archdiocesan publication, on the back cover in color, there was an announcement inviting young men who thought they had a vocation to the priesthood to a meeting with Cardinal McCarrick."
"I immediately phoned Cardinal Wuerl, who expressed his surprise to me, telling me that he knew nothing about that announcement and that he would cancel it," said Vigano. "If, as he now continues to state, he knew nothing of the abuses committed by McCarrick and the measures taken by Pope Benedict [against McCarrick], how can his answer be explained? His recent statements that he knew nothing about it, even though at first he cunningly referred to compensation for the two victims, are absolutely laughable."
"The Cardinal lies shamelessly and prevails upon his Chancellor, Monsignor Antonicelli, to lie as well," said Vigano.
The National Catholic Reporter reported that a group of “about 30 protestors” gathered outside the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Sunday, Sept. 9, calling for Wuerl’s resignation.