Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Paris, who unexpectedly offered to step down last week after admitting to an ‘ambiguous’ relationship with a woman in 2012.
Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit said in a statement that he offered to step down ‘to preserve the diocese from the division that suspicion and loss of trust are continuing to provoke.’
In their own statement, the Vatican said that the pope accepted Aupetit’s offer, and named Monsignor Georges Pontier to serve temporarily in his place pending the pontiff’s appointment of a permanent new archbishop.
Aupetit wrote to Pope Francis offering to resign following a report in Le Point magazine saying he had a consensual, intimate relationship with a woman.
Roman Catholic priests take vows of chastity and 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 – but Aupetit has denied being the author of the email.
At the time of the alleged relationship, Aupetit was a priest in the archdiocese of Paris – he only became Paris archbishop in 2018.
‘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, adding that 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 Andre Vingt-Trois, the then-Paris archbishop, in 2012.
Only the pope can hire or fire bishops, or accept their resignations, and at 70, Aupetit is five years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.
The timing of Aupetit’s announcement was unusual as it came as the pope and the Vatican hierarchy were en route to Cyprus at the start of a five-day trip.