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US Cardinal Removed from Ministry Over Abuse Finding

FILE - Cardinal Theodore McCarrick speaks during an interview at the North American College at the Vatican, Feb. 14, 2013.

The former archbishop of Washington has been removed from public ministry by the Vatican over allegations that he sexually abused a teenager nearly 50 years ago when he was a priest in New York.

Pope Francis ordered 87-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's removal Wednesday, pending further action that could include expulsion from the priesthood, after the allegation was found to be "credible and substantiated."

"While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people," McCarrick said in a statement.

McCarrick is one of the highest-ranking U.S. church officials accused in a sexual abuse scandal that has seen thousands of priests implicated.

McCarrick, known to be fluent in seven languages, was archbishop in Washington, D.C., from 2000 to 2006. He was elevated to cardinal in 2001.

He participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, presided over the graveside service for U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery in 2009, and celebrated Mass with Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to Washington.

The church said McCarrick remains in Washington and is in frail health.