Pope Francis has refused to accept the resignation offered by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx over the sex abuse scandal in the church.
However, he said a process of reform was necessary and that every bishop must take responsibility for the “catastrophe” of the crisis.
Francis wrote a letter to Mr Marx in response to the German’s bombshell announcement last week that he had offered to resign as archbishop of Munich and Freising over the church’s mishandling of abuse cases.
The Pope refused to accept the resignation and told Mr Marx in the letter he must continue as archbishop.
Francis said that what was necessary instead was a process of reform “that doesn’t consist in words but attitudes that have the courage of putting oneself in crisis, of assuming reality regardless of the consequences”.
Francis’s letter appears to give Mr Marx papal backing to proceed with the German Church’s controversial reform process that was launched as a response to the abuse crisis and reports into the German hierarchy’s mishandling of abuse cases over decades.
The so-called “Synodal Path” reform process has sparked fierce resistance inside Germany and beyond, primarily from conservatives opposed to opening any debate on issues such as priestly celibacy, women’s role in the church and homosexuality.
Resistance has also come from the Vatican and bishops outside Germany, including some in the United States who have broken with church protocol to pen essays critical of the German reform process.