Cardinal Wuerl to discuss his possible resignation with Pope Francis

Vatican appears ready to respond to claims pope covered up sexual misconduct

Pope Francis is in a pensive mood during his weekly general audience at the Vatican

He began to be publicly criticized last month after a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report said more than 300 priests had abused over 1,000 children, dating back to the 1940s.

He announced Tuesday that he will be meeting with the pope in the near future about the mandatory resignation letter he submitted when he turned 75 in 2015.

The note was sent on Tuesday, after Wuerl spent the week meeting with priests in his diocese about whether he should stand down or not.

The pope is also facing scrutiny over not accepting the resignation of D.C. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl after he was accused by the Pennsylvania AG report of covering the abusive behavior of predatory priests during his time as bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.

McCarrick is accused of molesting an altar boy and having seminary students sleep in his bed with him.

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.

Since the report was unveiled, a prominent deacon at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington said he would refuse to participate in the Mass alongside the cardinal.

The heads of the national Catholic bishops' conferences will meet with Francis from February 21-24, a Vatican spokeswoman said.

The Catholic Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, with widespread allegations of cover-ups, including against the pope himself.

With the Catholic Church in crisis once again over clerical sex abuse and cover-up, Pope Francis will meet on Thursday with U.S. cardinals and bishops who are demanding to know how one of their own was able to climb the clerical ranks despite allegations that he slept with seminarians.

But first Pope Francis will meet with the head of the United States bishop's conference and other top U.S. church officials on Thursday to discuss the sex abuse scandal.

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

DiNardo has also said recent accusations that senior Vatican officials including the current pope had covered up for McCarrick since 2000 deserve answers. Also involved are two officials from the United States conference, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, according to a Vatican statement.

"The Holy Father Francis, after hearing the Council of Cardinals, has made a decision to convene a meeting with the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the 'protection of minors, '" announced the press office.

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