Pope Francis on Monday, January 30, accepted the retirement of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops, who was accused last year of sexually assaulting a woman.
Cardinal Ouellet, 78, who has strongly denied the claims against him, is retiring as head of the Vatican’s dicastery, or department, for bishops, due to his age.
Pope Francis “has accepted the resignation presented, due to (the cardinal’s) reaching the age limit,” the Vatican statement said.
The Canadian Church leader, once considered a strong candidate to be pope, has been accused of abusing a female intern from 2008 to 2010, when he was archbishop of Quebec.
He was named in court documents in August relating to a class action suit targeting more than 80 members of the clergy in the archdiocese of Quebec.
In December, Cardinal Ouellet said he had filed a defamation suit against the woman who accused him, “to restore my reputation.”
He is also facing a second complaint made by a woman in 2020, first revealed by French weekly Golias earlier this month and confirmed by the Quebec diocese on Monday.
The complaint was forwarded to the Vatican, a spokesperson for the diocese told AFP.
As prefect, Ouellet headed up the Vatican office that suggests bishop appointments to the pope.
He will be replaced by American Bishop Robert Francis Prevost, 67, who has served as a bishop of the Diocese of Chiclayo in Peru since 2015.
He is a member of the Order of St. Augustine and led the Augustinian order as prior general from Rome for more than a decade after serving as a missionary priest for the order in Peru in the 1990s.
Born in Chicago in 1955, Bishop Prevost entered the Augustinian order as a novice at the age of 21. He studied philosophy at Villanova University and theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago before being ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1982.
Bishop Prevost earned a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome in 1985.
He helped to establish in 1988 the order’s formation house in Trujillo, Peru, where he went on to serve as prior, formation director, judicial vicar, and a director of seminary studies. He returned to the US in 1999 after being elected prior of the order’s Chicago province.
After becoming a bishop in Peru, Bishop Prevost was appointed by the pope as a member of the Dicastery for Bishops and the Dicastery for Clergy.
As the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Bishop Prevost will play a key role in the selection process for diocesan bishops and in the investigation of allegations against bishops.
The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the pope, and he is free to select anyone he chooses. Usually, the pope’s representative in a country, the apostolic nuncio, passes on recommendations and documentation to the Vatican.
The Dicastery of Bishops then discusses the appointment in a further process and takes a vote. On being presented with the recommendations, the pope makes the final decision.
Bishop Prevost will begin his new post on April 12 and will receive the title of archbishop. He will succeed Cardinal Ouellet in both the position of prefect and as the next president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. – with a report from AFP
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