With Pope Francis’ permission, the archdiocese of Munich and Freising published the cardinal’s letter to the pope, along with a personal declaration, on June 4 in German, English, and Italian.
Responding to the pope’s refusal of his resignation, Marx said: “I did not expect that he would react so quickly and I did not expect his decision that I should continue my service as archbishop of Munich and Freising.”
“I am moved by the comprehensiveness and the very brotherly tone of his letter and feel how much he understands and has accepted my request. In obedience I accept his decision as I promised him.”
Writing in Spanish, Francis told Marx: “If you are tempted to think that, by confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation, this Bishop of Rome (your brother who loves you) does not understand you, think of what Peter felt before the Lord when, in his own way, he presented him with his resignation: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner,’ and listen to the answer: ‘Shepherd my sheep.’”
The cardinal said that he would now need to reflect on “what new ways we can go -- even in the face of a history of multiple failures -- to proclaim and witness to the Gospel” in the Munich archdiocese.
He said: “The bishop is not alone in this and in the next few weeks I will think about how we can together contribute even more to the renewal of the Church here in our archdiocese and as a whole; because the pope takes up much of what I mentioned in my letter to him and gives us important impulses.”
“What I also underlined in my declaration remains: that I have to bear personal responsibility and also have an ‘institutional responsibility,’ especially in view of those affected [by clerical sexual abuse], whose perspective needs to be included even more effectively.”
CNA Deutsch reported that German bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing expressed relief at the pope’s decision not to accept Marx’s resignation.
Thomas Sternberg, president of the influential lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), also welcomed the news.
He told the Rheinische Post that the pope’s letter showed “that the alleged dissatisfaction with the ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not correspond to the multi-layered reality.”
He was referring to the controversial multi-year process bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.
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Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007, had said that he hoped his resignation would “send a personal signal for a new beginning, for a new awakening of the Church, not only in Germany.”
In April, Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.
He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin April 30.
Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.
Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the Affected Persons Advisory Board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.
“We do not understand how you can award Cardinal Marx the Federal Cross of Merit, a man who is still criticized for not having consistently investigated cases of sexualized violence in his former diocese of Trier and who is accused of covering up cases in that context,” he wrote.