Pope Francis Convokes Worldwide Meeting of Bishops on Abuse Crisis

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

They are expected to talk about clergy sexually abusing children and years of church officials covering up abuse claims against parish priests.

The announcement comes amid growing criticism of the Pope's role in dealing with historical child abuse within the Catholic Church, and a day before he is scheduled to meet Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The meeting of Episcopal Conference presidents will be held at the Vatican from February 21 to 24, the C9 cardinals' conference that advises the pope on reform said in a statement.

The summit was announced as Francis still works to recover from his botched handling of the sex abuse scandal in the Chilean church, sparked earlier this year when he repeatedly discredited victims of a notorious Chilean predator priest.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl was named in Philadelphia's grand jury report into sex abuse in the Catholic Church as someone who had allowed priests to continue working despite allegations of sexual assault during his time as Archbishop of Pittsburgh.

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After weeks of relative silence, Pope Francis has agreed to meet a delegation of US bishops and cardinals to discuss the Vatican response to the clergy abuse crisis.

The Americans have called on Francis to launch a Vatican-led investigation into how Theodore McCarrick, a former United States cardinal, climbed the ranks, even as rumours swirled about his behaviour.

The pope's former apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accused the pope of knowing about and ignoring sanctions placed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI due to his sexual misconduct with seminarians.

Last month, in a letter to the world's Catholics, Francis said the church must prevent sexual abuse from being "covered up and perpetuated".

The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that the archbishop would habitually invite seminary students to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.

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Wuerl was referring to a letter of resignation sent when he was 75 years old, the customary retirement age, the Washington Post reported.

DiNardo has said that he wants the pope to approve a full investigation of the McCarrick case, and that reports of a cover-up by the Vatican and the pope himself need to be answered.

The Vatican hasn't responded to the accusations, but presumably the "clarifications" it has promised will come sometime after Francis meets with the top U.S. church leadership this week.

In their conclusions, the German researchers said there was evidence that some church files were manipulated or destroyed.

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