Germany's influential Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has offered his resignation to Pope Francis, 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.
Germany's Catholic church has been rocked by a string of reports in recent years which have laid bare the extent of sexual abuse of children by clergymen.
A study commissioned by the German Bishops' Conference under Cardinal Marx's presidency and released in 2018 showed that 1,670 clergymen had committed some type of sexual attack against 3,677 minors, mostly boys, between 1946 and 2014.
However, its authors said the actual number of victims was almost certainly much higher.
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," Cardinal Marx wrote, who is Archbishop of Munich, adding that he hoped his departure would create space for a new beginning.
Cardinal Marx, who is Archbishop of Munich, said in a statement on his archdiocese's website that the Pope had instructed him to remain in office until he had decided whether to accept the resignation.
Known as a prominent advocate for reform, Cardinal Marx has previously apologised on behalf of the Church to the victims of sexual abuse.
In April, he turned down the Federal Cross of Merit amid criticism from victims' groups over the Church's response to the scandals.
Germany's Catholic Church counted 22.6 million members in 2019 and it is still the largest religion in the country, but the number is two million fewer than in 2010 when the first major wave of paedophile abuse cases came to light.