By Philip Pullella
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Monday that he had accepted the resignation of Paris archbishop Michel Aupetit not because he had sinned but because the gossip about him had left him in a position where he could no longer govern the diocese.
Speaking to reporters on a plane returning to Rome from a trip to Cyprus and Greece, Francis said sins of the flesh were certainly sins but not as great as sins such as hatred and pride and that the bishop had been the victim of "an injustice".
Aupetit asked for forgiveness after reports over a relationship with a woman. The 70-year-old cleric, who is bound by the Church's celibacy rule, has denied any intimate relationship with the unnamed woman, though he acknowledged his behaviour may have been ambiguous.
"It was a failing against the sixth commandment (You shall not commit adultery) but not a total one, one of small caresses, massage given to his secretary - that is what the accusation is," Francis said. "There is a sin there but not the worst kind."
He said everyone was a sinner, including himself. "He (the bishop) was condemned but by whom? By public opinion, by gossip .. he could no longer govern."
"I accepted the resignation of Aupetit not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy," he said.
Francis said he still did not have all the details of the case and expected to get them from French bishops when they visit the Vatican soon to discuss a recent report on clerical sexual abuse in the country.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones, William Maclean)