Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michel Aupetit on Thursday amid a controversy surrounding an alleged prior relationship with a woman before he was archbishop of Paris.
A statement from the Holy See press office on Dec. 2 said that Pope Francis accepted the resignation submitted by Aupetit and had appointed Archbishop Georges Pontier, archbishop emeritus of Marseille, as the interim apostolic administrator.
The report also raised concerns about Aupetit’s contacts with a woman dating back to 2012, when he was vicar general of Paris archdiocese.
The 70-year-old archbishop, who had a late vocation to the priesthood after working as a doctor, told Le Point that he was not in a relationship with the woman.
He said: “My behavior towards her may have been ambiguous, thus suggesting the existence between us of an intimate relationship and sexual relations, which I strongly refute … I decided not to see her again and I informed her.”
Aupetit told the French Catholic daily La Croix that he had spoken to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, about his situation, as well as to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio to France.
“This is not because of what I should or should not have done in the past — otherwise I would have left a long time ago — but to avoid division, if I myself am a source of division,” he said.
In a Dec. 2 statement also released as a video message, Aupetit said: “The painful events of the past week, about which I have already spoken, had led me to place my mission in the hands of Pope Francis in order to preserve the archdiocese from the division that suspicion and loss of trust always provoke.”
“I have received this heavy burden from the archdiocese of Paris and I have tried to carry it out with fervor and dedication. I give thanks to God, who has always given me the gift of a benevolent gaze at my fellow human beings and of love for people, which led me to the practice of medicine in the first place. Caring is something deeply rooted in me and the difficulties of relationships between people do not diminish it.”
He added: “I was, of course, greatly disturbed by the attacks on me. Today, I thank God that my heart is deeply at peace. I thank the many, many people who have shown me their trust and affection over the past eight days.”
“I pray for those who may have wished me ill as Christ taught us to do, who helps us beyond our poor strength. I ask forgiveness of those whom I might have hurt and assure you all of my deep friendship and my prayer, which will always be yours.”
Concluding his message, he recalled the words of his first homily as archbishop of Paris: “Don’t look at the archbishop, contemplate Christ!”