Pope accepts French archbishop's resignation

Pope accepts French archbishop's resignation over relationship with woman

In a statement on Thursday, Aupetit said he had offered to resign to 'protect the diocese from the division that always provokes suspicion and the loss of confidence'

Former Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit. Credit: AFP File Photo

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, who offered to quit over his "ambiguous behaviour" with a woman, the Vatican said Thursday.

Aupetit, 70, had offered to step down following media reports of an intimate relationship with a woman, which he had categorically denied.

A diocese spokeswoman said last week that "he had ambiguous behaviour with a person he was very close to", adding that it was "not a loving relationship", nor sexual.

The offer to resign was "not a confession of guilt, but a humble gesture, an offer of dialogue," she added.

Catholic priests are bound to celibacy under church doctrine and are meant to practice sexual abstinence.

In a statement on Thursday, Aupetit said he had offered to resign to "protect the diocese from the division that always provokes suspicion and the loss of confidence".

He described the events of the past week as "painful", but thanked all those who had supported him.

The French church is currently reeling from the publication in October of a devastating report by an independent commission, which estimated that Catholic clergy had abused 216,000 children since 1950.

Dealing with the avalanche of revelations about sexual abuse by priests was one of the biggest challenges that Pope Francis faced when he was elected pope in 2013.

The Vatican made no mention of the reasons for Aupetit's departure in its brief statement, which was issued as the pope flew to Cyprus for a five-day trip that will also include Greece.

"The Holy Father has accepted the resignation... presented by Monsignor Michel Aupetit," it said.

Georges Pontier, emeritus archbishop of Marseile, has been appointed administrator in Paris.

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