Pope Francis summons bishops for meeting on protecting minors

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After hearing from his council, the pope "decided to convoke a meeting with the presidents of the bishops' conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the protection of minors", the council said in a written communique.

Francis plans to meet on Thursday at the Vatican with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Pope's top adviser on clergy sex abuse.

The Pope will meet the presidents of the Catholic bishops conferences from around the world in the Vatican from February 21-24, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Pope Francis addressed the recent sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in some controversial remarks Tuesday in his homily.

In the United States, a Grand Jury has found that 301 priests in the state of Pennsylvania sexually abused minors over a similar period.

The archbishop of of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who has faced calls to step down over his handling of sexual abuse cases while serving as bishop of Pittsburgh, said in letter to priests that he will soon go to Rome to meet with Pope Francis to discuss his possible resignation.

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

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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.

St. John Paul II made him archbishop of Washington and a cardinal in 2001, presumably because Vatican officials were impressed by his fundraising prowess and considered his past homosexual activity a mere "moral lapse" and not a gross abuse of power, it added.

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 Archbishop of Washington has said he will travel to Rome to ask the Pope to consider accepting his resignation.

"The Holy Father Francis, after hearing the Council of Cardinals, has chose 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. Protocols for dealing with abuse in the church vary wildly from country to country.

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, who were mostly boys, aged 13 or younger.

Achieving the goals, he had said, would involve "consultation with experts, laity and clergy, as well as the Vatican".

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