Cardinal accused of covering up sex abuse to meet with pope

Pope Francis in Vatican City Italy on Sept. 5 2018

Pope Francis in Vatican City Italy on Sept. 5 2018. Grzegorz Galazka—SIPA REX Shutterstock

Pope Francis is summoning leading bishops from around the world for a summit on the sex abuse crisis that threatens to engulf the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops' conference in the world to Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

A Vatican spokesperson said the meeting of the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences would take place February 21-24.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, leader of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has recently come under criticism after that critical Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that said more than 300 priests in the Commonwealth had abused over thousand children, dating back to the 1940's.

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Pope Francis plans to meet with top Roman Catholic officials next year to discuss the growing number of sexual abuse cases involving Catholic clergy.

The Vatican announced Tuesday that Francis will meet this week with two other USA cardinals, one of whom has said he wants a full-scale Vatican investigation of Archbishop McCarrick.

Victims' advocates immediately dismissed the event as belated damage control, an action publicized hastily as allegations regarding Francis' record of handling abuse cases - and accumulated outrage among rank-and-file Catholic faithful over covered-up crimes - jeopardize his papacy.

The Vatican said on Tuesday the delegation for the pope's USA visit would be headed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. conference of Catholic bishops, and would also include Francis's top sexual abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O'Malley. The report also alleged that Wuerl protected abusers when he was the head of Pittsburgh's diocese from 1988 to 2006.

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A top Vatican official says the clerical sex abuse scandal is such a game-changing catastrophe for the Catholic Church that he called it the church's "own 9/11" on the 17th anniversary of the attacks in the U.S.

The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that McCarrick invited seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed, but was made a cardinal anyway. In a letter to priests on Tuesday, he said he would be returning to Rome soon to discuss his resignation.

The pope initially said he would not say a "single word" on the accusations and refused to even answer a question about when he first knew of McCarrick's behavior.

The U.S. isn't alone in digging into its past. Protocols for dealing with abuse in the church vary wildly from country to country.

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The commission set up by Francis said on Sunday that the fight against abuse must be a Church priority and emphasised the importance of listening to victims.

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