Fr. Julián Carrón announced on Monday that he is resigning as president of Communion and Liberation.

In a Nov. 15 letter to members of the Catholic movement founded by Fr. Luigi Giussani in 1954, the Spanish priest said that he was stepping down “to favor that the change of leadership to which we are called by the Holy Father ... takes place with the freedom that this process requires.”

He was referring to a decree issued by the Vatican in June setting limits on the terms of leaders of international associations of the faithful and new communities.

The 71-year-old has served as president of Communion and Liberation since 2005, the year of Giussani’s death.

He was reconfirmed in the position for six years in 2014. He was then re-elected for a further six years in March 2020. His third term was due to conclude in 2026.

The Spanish theologian’s decision follows Pope Francis’ appointment in September of a special delegate to oversee Memores Domini, the lay consecrated branch of the Communion and Liberation movement.

Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy, will temporarily assume the governance of the association “in order to safeguard its charism and preserve the unity of the members,” the Vatican said.

Giussani helped to establish the Memores Domini in 1964 for lay members dedicated to “living the Gospel in the world.”

The Pontifical Council for the Laity recognized the Memores Domini as an international association of the faithful in 1988.

Four female members of Memores Domini worked in Benedict XVI’s papal household and also moved with him to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery after his retirement.

Giussani established Communion and Liberation in Milan, northern Italy. In a letter to Pope John Paul II in 2004, he said that the movement was driven by “urgency to proclaim the need to return to the elementary aspects of Christianity.”

Before his death, he personally chose Carrón as his successor. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger celebrated Giussani’s funeral Mass on Feb. 24, 2005, months before his election as Benedict XVI.

In his letter to members of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, present in more than 90 countries, Carrón said he hoped that his resignation would “lead each person to take personal responsibility for the charism” of Communion and Liberation.

“It has been an honor for me to exercise this service for years, an honor that fills me with humiliation for my limitations and if I have failed any of you,” he wrote.

“I give thanks to God for the gift of companionship that I have been able to enjoy, before the sight of your daily witness, from which I have constantly learned and from which I want to continue to learn.”

The Vatican decree issued in June limits terms of office in a movement’s central governing body to a maximum of five years, with one person being able to hold positions at the international governing level for no more than 10 years consecutively. Re-election is then possible after a vacancy of one term.

The new regulations state that where leaders have already exceeded the term limits, groups must provide for new elections “no later than 24 months from the coming into force of this decree,” or before Sept. 11, 2023.

Concluding his letter, Carrón said: “I wish you to live this circumstance as an occasion of growth of your ecclesial self-awareness, to be able to continue to witness the grace of the charism given by the Holy Spirit to Fr. Giussani, which makes Christ a real, persuasive and determining presence, which has hit us and drawn us into a flow of new life, for us and for the whole world.”