Paris: Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Paris after he admitted to an ambiguous relationship with a woman in 2012.

Archbishop Michel Aupetit said in a statement on Thursday that he offered to step down to preserve the diocese from the division that suspicion and loss of trust are continuing to provoke.

The Vatican said in a statement that the pope accepted Aupetit’s offer and named Monsignor George Pontier to serve in the archbishop’s place.

Aupetit, who had led the Paris church since 2018, sent a letter to Francis offering to resign following a report in Le Point magazine saying he had a consensual, intimate relationship with a woman. Aupetit told Le Point he didn’t have sexual relations with the woman.

The article in Le Point relied on several anonymous sources who said they had seen a 2012 e-mail Aupetit sent by mistake to his secretary. Aupetit denied being the author of the email.

Roman Catholic prelates take vows of chastity. At the time of the alleged relationship, Aupetit was a priest in the archdiocese of Paris.

I ask forgiveness of those I could have hurt and assure you all of my deep friendship and my prayers, Aupetit said in his statement. He said he was greatly disturbed by the attacks against me.

In an interview last week with Catholic radio Notre Dame, Aupetit said “I poorly handled the situation with a person who was in contact many times with me. Calling it a mistake, he said he decided no longer to see the woman after speaking with Cardinal Andr Vingt-Trois, the then-Paris archbishop, in 2012.

Only the pope can hire or fire bishops, or accept their resignations. At 70, Aupetit is five years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.

The pope has refused to accept similar offers from other prelates caught up in scandal.

The former archbishop of the French city of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, offered to resign in 2019 after a French court convicted him of failing to report a pedophile priest. Francis initially refused Barbarin’s offer but later accepted it.

More recently, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, offered to resign over the Catholic Church’s catastrophic mishandling of clergy sexual abuse cases. Francis refused to accept it and Marx remains in office.

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