Pope: gossip the reason for Paris archbishop’s resignation

Pope questioned over resignation

Questions are being asked over the speed at which Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit.

The unusually rapid acceptance has prompted speculation there is more to the issue than has been confirmed.

Reporters on the pope’s flight from Greece to Rome asked the pope why he accepted the resignation so quickly.

“When the chatter grows, grows, grows,” he told journalists, “he will not be able to govern because he has lost his reputation. That is why I accepted his resignation.”

Francis accepted the resignation of Aupetit after only a week amid turbulence in the French Catholic Church. It was a surprisingly rapid response from a pontiff who usually waits for months before responding to such an offer and then often rejects it.

Aupetit, who offered his resignation in late November after the weekly Le Point accused him of managing staff brusquely and making isolated and controversial decisions. It also said he had an intimate relationship with a woman a decade ago, which he denied.

Pope Francis said Aupetit had apparently hugged and massaged a secretary, which he said was a sin but not very serious. “Aupetit is a sinner, as am I,” he said.

Aupetit may have expected more time and support from the pontiff, who has shown less decisiveness in other abuse cases.

Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin’s resignation was not accepted for a year while he defended himself successfully against civil charges of covering up for a serial abuser priest.

In the Cologne archdiocese also struggling with accusations of an abuse cover up, Cardinal Rainer Woelki has been given a six-month “time out” to reconsider his mission, and Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hesse, a former Cologne vicar general, has returned to work after a similar sabbatical.

It took only a month for Pope Francis to reject a resignation offer from Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who cited an overall moral responsibility of the Church for sexual abuse cases as his reason.

The respected theologian Anne Soupa pointed out a disconnect. “For a disciplinary problem of a liaison with a woman, an archbishop resigns in three days,” she said. “And for crimes committed against children, no bishop has resigned in France.”

While the relationship with the woman may have been the catalyst for Aupetit’s resignation, the pope’s quick acceptance may have had more to do with the archbishop’s governance problems.

Aupetit, a former medical doctor who critics said failed to grow into the Paris role, was accused by Le Point of “scathing ways (and) singular lack of listening and empathy”. Controversial decisions included the abrupt shutting of an experimental parish and the firing of a Catholic school principal.

Red lights started blinking in March 2021 after Mgr Benoist de Sinety left for Lille, the second vicar general to quit in four months. Reports said Aupetit had ignored and humiliated the popular vicar, and Rome began thinking the archbishop should be transferred to another post.

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Georges Pontier as apostolic administrator sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis of the archdiocese.



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