Cardinal Reinhard Marx addresses a press conference in Munich, Germany, on June 4 after he had offered Pope Francis his resignation over the Church's 'institutional and systemic failure' in its handling of child sex abuse scandals. (Photo: AFP)
It came as a complete shock. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, arguably one of the Catholic Church's most powerful prelates, publicly announced on June 4 that he has asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation as archbishop of Munich and Freising.
Why is this so shocking? Cardinal Marx is only 67 years old — eight years short of reaching the normal retirement age — and he is one of the pope's closest and most influential advisers.
And although it has not been reported with the attention it deserves, he has also been one of the driving forces in getting the Vatican to devote time and resources to addressing the clergy sex abuse crisis.
He has long advocated focusing on the needs of victims rather than protecting the interests and image of the Church.
In his resignation letter, he said: "It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by church officials over the past decades."