Southeastern PA

Pope Accepts Archbishop's Resignation, Appoints Replacement

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Rigali, sending him into retirement as the archdiocese faces accusations that it covered up a long-running priest sex abuse scandal.

The pope has named Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput to succeed him as the 13th bishop and 9th archbishop of Philadelphia.

"I am confident that the people of the archdiocese will welcome the new archbishop with the warmth affection and respect that is so characteristic of the City of Brotherly Love," said Rigali.

The brief announcement by the Vatican on Tuesday said the resignation of Rigali, 76, was for reason of age. He submitted it on his 75th birthday in April 2010, as required by church law, but the pope did not immediately act on it.

"Cardinal Rigali is 76. He's a year beyond his retirement," said Monsignor Dennis Hartgen of Holy Guardian Angels Church in Muhlenberg Township, Berks County. "This has been expected for a long time. So, it's no surprise."

A 2005 grand jury report charged that Rigali and his predecessor hid credible sex-abuse complaints made against dozens of Philadelphia priests.

"If I have offended anyone in any way, I'm deeply sorry," said Rigali. "I apologize for any weaknesses on my part in representing Christ in the church orderly and effectively."

A monsignor in Philadelphia is fighting child endangerment charges, and three other priests are accused of rape.

"These priests are not thrown out," said Hartgen. "It's just a matter of making sure that their case is looked at clearly and justly and to see what would happen with that."

Some critics said Chaput isn't the man for the job because he fought efforts in Colorado to allow victims more time to file suit.

"The statute of limitations, once that runs down, many of these people this happened 50, 60, 70 year ago, and all of the people are dead," said Hartgen. "What can you do?"

The head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called Chaput's appointment "disappointing." Barbara Blaine said she doesn't believe Chaput will support the recommendations of the grand jury as he should.

Chaput has pledged to heal the sins of the past.

"With new leadership, there's new birth," said Hartgen. "I think that they have every right to expect there will be a new vibrancy in the church."

Chaput, 66, was ordained a priest in 1970 and became a bishop at the age of 43. He became the first Native American archbishop when he was appointed to the post in Denver in 1997.

"Apparently, he's a really straight shooter and doesn't mince words," said Hartgen.

LINK: Archbishop Chaput's Biography

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia covers the city and surrounding counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery. It separated from the Diocese of Allentown, which includes Berks County and the Lehigh Valley, in 1961.

This Week's Circulars

Southeastern PA News

Latest From The Newsroom