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Pope Francis rejects Cardinal Marx’s resignation

June 10, 2021

Pope Francis has declined to accept the resignation of Cardinal Reinhard Marx as Archbishop of Munich.

Cardinal Marx had earlier this week made public a May 21 letter in which he offered his resignation, citing the Church’s “systemic failure” to address the sex-abuse scandal. In his reply, released by the Vatican on June 10, the Pope praised the German cardinal for his courage in confronting the Church’s crisis.

In a two-page letter to Cardinal Marx, written in Spanish, Pope Francis warmly thanks him for his willingness to continue serving the Church. “Continue as you propose,” he instructs him, “but as Archbishop of Munich and Freising.”

In proposing to resign, Cardinal Marx had emphasized the need for dramatic reforms in the Church, and stressed his support for the “Synodal Path” proposed by the German bishops’ conference. Pope Francis did not address the German bishops’ proposals in his response. But he did strongly endorse the cardinal’s call for serious reforms. “Reform in the Church,” the Pontiff wrote, “has been accomplished by men and women who were not afraid of entering into a crisis…”

Pope Francis was under no obligation to reply immediately to the German cardinal; the Pontiff typically take his time responding when prelates offer their resignations. So this quick papal reply—as well as the very friendly tone of the letter—was a clear indication of the Pope’s support for Cardinal Marx.

An AP report made the observation that it “appeared to give Marx papal backing to proceed with the German Church’s controversial reform process…” In fact the AP report “suggested the drama might have been somewhat choreographed, at least from the pope’s end, perhaps to embolden Marx and give him backing for the ‘Synodal Path’ to carry on.”

Cardinal Marx has long been a key figure in the German hierarchy. He was president of the episcopal conference when the Synodal Path was begun. He is also an influential figure in Rome, as a member of the Council of Cardinals (the equivalent of a papal cabinet of advisors) and the Council for the Economy, which oversees the Vatican’s financial affairs. Because of his high profile and because he is several years short of the normal retirement age for bishops, his offer to resign had considerable impact.

Pope Francis opened his response by thanking Cardinal Marx for his courage. He agreed with the cardinal that “the whole Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue,” and characterized the Church’s handling of that crisis “until recently, as a catastrophe.”

“We must make a mea culpa in the face of the many historical errors of the past,” the Pope wrote. “We must take ownership of the history.” He continued:

We will not be saved by the prestige of our Church, which tends to hide its sins; we will not be saved by the power of money or the opinion of the media (so often we are too dependent on them). We will be saved by opening the door to the only One who can, and by confessing our nakedness: ‘I have sinned,’ ‘we have sinned...’ and by weeping, and stammering, as best we can, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner,’—the legacy that the first Pope left to the popes and bishops of the Church.


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 11, 2021 12:29 PM ET USA

    Given that Pope Francis is not afraid of a schism in the Church, his response to the dissenting prelate is no surprise at all. However, this assertion contradicts Christ Himself: "We will not be saved by the prestige of our Church, which tends to hide its sins". The Church cannot "hide its sins" because the Church is protected from sinning by its Founder. It is individual sinners (not the corporate body as a whole) within the hierarchy at all levels who commit the most grievous sins.

  • Posted by: mhains8491 - Jun. 10, 2021 7:59 PM ET USA

    The whole thing was grandstanding by Marx's. Once again we see Pope Francis failing to hold Bishops accountable for serious failures concerning sexual abuse. The coverups and lack of accountability continue at the Vatican. Utterly shameful. Lord knot the rope again and clean out the filth from your Church.