The resignation comes amid major unrest in the Catholic Church over accusations of sexual assault and cover-up.
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Paris, who unexpectedly offered to step down last week after admitting he had an “ambiguous” affair with a woman in 2012.
Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit said in a statement Thursday that he offered to step down “to preserve the diocese from the division that continues to give rise to suspicion and loss of confidence”.
The Vatican said in a statement that the Pope had accepted Aupetit’s offer, and had appointed Monsignor Georges Pontier to serve temporarily in his place pending the Pope’s appointment of a new permanent archbishop.
Resignation comes in the middle great turmoil in the French Catholic Church. A report released in October estimated that about 3,000 French priests committed their crimes sexual violence During the past seventy years. And last year, the Pope accepted the resignation of French Catholic Cardinal Philippe Barbarin in connection with the cover-up of the sexual abuse of dozens of boys by a predatory priest.
The Vatican gave no reason for Francis to accept Aupetit’s resignation, or why the decision came so quickly after his presentation. The French media have also pointed out alleged governance problems in the diocese, which may also be a fundamental reason behind Francis’ quick decision to remove Aupetit.
Previously, Francis had spent his time considering whether to accept the resignation submitted as a result of the scandal. In many cases—even those that many would see as more outrageous—he refused the offer outright and asked the bishop to stay.
In June, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, offered to resign over the Catholic Church’s “catastrophic” mishandling of clergy sexual abuse cases, albeit not because of his involvement in wrongdoing. Francis refused to accept it, and Marx remained in office.
A French activist and former head of La Parole Libre, a group fighting sexual violence in the Catholic Church, has sharply criticized the Pope for taking swift action in the Aupetit case.
François Defoe claimed that “Pope Francis loses all legitimacy because of this terrible lack of government”. “This man should read the Bible again.
He added: “The Pope recently received Cardinal Barbarin, according to which he set up a church in France,” referring to Francis’ recent praise of the cardinal during his visit to Assisi.
Barbarin offered to resign in 2019 after a French court found him guilty of failing to report a pedophile priest. Francis initially declined Barbarin’s offer, but accepted it more than a year later—and more than a month after Barbarin’s conviction was overturned on appeal.
The timing of Aupetit’s announcement was unusual because it came as the Pope and Vatican authority were on their way to Cyprus at the start of a five-day trip.
Aupetit wrote to Francis offering to resign after a report in Le Point magazine saying he had a consensual intimate relationship with a woman. He told Aupetit Le Point that he had never had sexual relations with the woman.
Roman Catholic priests pledge chastity.
The article in Le Point relied on several anonymous sources who said they saw a 2012 email that Aupetit mistakenly sent to his secretary. Aupetit denied being the email writer.
At the time of the alleged affair, Aupetit was a chaplain in the Diocese of Paris. He became Archbishop of Paris in 2018.
“I ask forgiveness for those I could have hurt and I assure you of all my deepest friendship and prayers,” Auppetit said in his statement. He said he was “deeply disturbed by the attacks I was subjected to.”
In an interview last week with Catholic Radio Notre Dame, Auppetit said: “I handled the situation badly with someone who has been in contact with me many times.” Calling it a “mistake,” he said he decided not to see the woman after speaking with Cardinal Andre Ving Trois, then Archbishop of Paris, in 2012.
Only the Pope can appoint or dismiss bishops or accept their resignations. At 70, Aupetit is five years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.