The German Archbishop of Munich and Freising announced on Friday he had asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation over the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis.
In a stunning May 21 letter that Cardinal Reinhard Marx said the pope had allowed him to make public, the bishop explained that the Catholic Church was facing a "dead end" but said he hoped this could be a "turning point".
"As a bishop, I have an 'institutional responsibility' for the acts of the Church in its entirety as well as for its institutional problems and failures in the past," Marx wrote in a letter asking Pope Francis to accept his resignation.
The letter, which was published on Friday by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising continues: "I am concerned about the fact that a trend has become apparent over the past months to exclude the systemic causes and hazards or, if we point a finger on it, the fundamental theological questions, and to reduce the process of dealing with the past to an improvement of administrative processes."
Cardinal Marx is the previous chairman of the German Bishops' Conference which commissioned a report on sexual abuse that was released in 2018. It revealed that 3,677 children were abused by 1,670 clerics.
According to the translation of Marx's 2018 statement at a press conference about the report, he said: "I am ashamed because of the trust that has been destroyed; because of the crimes that have been committed by officials of the Church; and I feel shame because many people have looked the other way and did not want to see what had happened and who did not care about the victims."
During a 2019 four-day summit organised by Pope Francis, Marx said the German study also showed that church documents had been manipulated about sex abuse claims.
The cardinal now urges in his resignation letter for bishops to continue working towards systemic change within the church.
He remains an advocate of the German "Synodal Path", a discussion of reform in the church, including the place of women, that has been criticised by some members of the Catholic Church.
"My service for this Church and the people does not end. However, to support a new beginning which is necessary, I would like to bear my share in the responsibility for past events," Marx said.