A Pennsylvania grand jury report accused Wuerl of allowing priests accused of sexually abusing children to be reassigned or reinstated.
As required by Church law, Cardinal Wuerl had submitted his resignation to the pope on November 12, 2015, when he turned 75 years old, but the pope asked him to stay put.
"Pope Francis has spoken following a number of high-profile sexual abuse stories breaking across the world, saying: "(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past". I am profoundly grateful for his devoted commitment to the wellbeing of the Archdiocese of Washington and also deeply touched by his gracious words of understanding.
A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Cardinal Wuerl studied at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
The archbishop of Washington DC stepped down over the handling of sex abuse cases but received fulsome praise from the pope, drawing criticism from campaigners who said it showed the Catholic Church cared more for its leaders than abuse victims.
And allegations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy continue to plague the Church with the latest cases in Germany described as "the tip of the iceberg" by Germany's justice minister.
Cardinal Wuerl has said until the Archdiocese of NY began investigating the claims that Archbishop McCarrick abused a minor, he was never informed of such accusations or even the rumors of Archbishop McCarrick's sexual harassment of seminarians.
The shoe finally dropped for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, but it hasn't quite hit the floor yet.
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The cardinal, who was appointed to Washington by Benedict XVI, is a widely respected Church leader known as a consummate Churchman marked by his loyalty to all the popes he has served.
Early Friday morning, when the resignation they had hoped for was announced, these faithful Catholic activists weren't sure how to feel.
Wuerl oversaw the Diocese of Pittsburgh as Bishop from 1988 to 2006.
Wuerl is apologizing to Catholics in his archdiocese after Pope Francis accepted his resignation Friday as archbishop. May the Holy Spirit continue to lead and guide all in the Archdiocese, especially in this time of transition.
In August, McCarrick was removed from public ministry after church officials deemed credible the allegations that he had sexually abused a minor. Most of the victims were boys, of which half were 13 or less years.
For the last five years, Wuerl has also been the single most important voice within the United States hierarchy defending Pope Francis, at a time when some other American bishops and Catholic leaders have struck discordant notes.
I have been the recipient of his wisdom, experience and counsel.
Cardinal Ouellet said in all his meetings with Francis about bishop nominations, he never heard him refer once to McCarrick as a trusted counsellor.
The pope asked Wuerl to remain an "Apostolic Administrator to the Archdiocese" in Washington until the appointment of his successor.