One of Roman Catholicism's most influential liberal figures, Germany's Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has offered to resign as archbishop of Munich, saying he had to share responsibility for the "catastrophe" of sexual abuse by clerics over past decades.
His offer, which has yet to be accepted by Pope Francis, comes amid a growing uproar among the German faithful over abuse. Last week, the pope sent two senior foreign bishops to investigate the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany's largest, over its handling of abuse cases.
"I have to share responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse by officials of the Church over past decades," Marx wrote in a letter to the pope, which was published on the archdiocese's website. He added that he hoped his departure would create space for a new beginning.
Marx, 67, served as the head of the Catholic Church in Germany, president of the country's conference of bishops, until last year when he declined to stand for a second term.
Since being installed as archbishop in 2008, he has consistently called for more acceptance of same-sex relationships and for more women to be elevated to leadership roles in a male-dominated Church.
But the past few years have seen an accelerating exodus, with liberal faithful literally queuing in Cologne to quit the Church, protesting not only at abuse but also over conservative attitudes toward same-sex relationships.
Germany's Church has an outsized influence globally, in part because of its wealth: taxes paid by members and collected by the government make it the world's richest.
The archdiocese said in a statement on its website that the pope had instructed Marx to remain in office until he had decided whether to accept the resignation.
"I continue to enjoy being a priest and a bishop of this Church, and I will keep committing myself in pastoral matters, wherever you deem it reasonable and useful," Marx said in his letter to the pope.