Pope Francis summons bishops for summit on clergy sex abuse

Build church unity and shun clericalism pope tells new bishops

Pope Francis attends a meeting with new bishops from mission territories at the Vatican Sept. 8 CNS

The letter comes as Francis prepares for a Thursday meeting with a delegation of U.S. church leaders - including the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, and Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Vatican's top adviser on clergy sex abuse - to discuss the best way to handle the clergy abuse scandal.

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 Catholic Church is facing sexual abuse scandals in the United States, Chile, Australia and Germany, among others.

Pennsylvania's attorney general released the scathing report in August, revealing the results of a two-year investigation into hundreds of sexual abuse allegations.

With the Catholic Church in crisis once again over clerical sex abuse and cover-up, Pope Francis will meet on Thursday with USA 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.

Conservative US Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano sparked a firestorm last month when he claimed Francis had personally ignored abuse allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years.

The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that McCarrick would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.

More recently, Francis's papacy was hit by accusations from a retired Vatican ambassador that he helped a top American cardinal evade sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict for molesting and harassing adult seminarians.

Archbishop DiNardo also has said the church must answer accusations by the former Vatican ambassador to the USA that Francis and other top Vatican officials have covered up for Archbishop McCarrick since 2000.

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. Archbishop Jose Gomez, vice president of the bishops' conference, and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, the conference secretary, will also attend, according to the Vatican. On Wednesday, German media reported that a church-commissioned study on abuse in the German church detailed 3,677 abuses cases between 1946 and 2014, with more than half of the victims aged 13 or younger and most boys.

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

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