Pope summons senior bishops for summit on clerical sexual abuse

Pope summons senior bishops for summit on clerical sexual abuse

Three of the nine council members were absent for the meetings: Cardinal George Pell, 77, who now is on trial in Australia on sex abuse charges; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, 85, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who is facing questioning over his handling of abuse allegations; and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, who turns 79 in early October.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the bishop of Pittsburgh between 1988 and 2006, was named in last month's scathing Pennsylvania grand-jury report as having concealed complaints of predator priests who sexually abused more than 1,000 children.

The announcement of the extraordinary conclave, scheduled for February 21 to 24 at the Vatican, comes as Francis faces pressure to rectify the Vatican's slow-footed response to abuse and enact safeguards many Catholics say should have been created years earlier.

Francis eventually admitted to "grave errors in judgment" and took steps to make amends, including securing offers of resignation from every active member of Chile's bishops' conference.

In a letter to priests in the diocese, Wuerl said he will meet with Francis about the resignation he presented almost three years ago at age 75, the mandatory age for Catholic bishops to submit their retirement to the Pope.

Vatican officials said the U.S. Catholic leaders want to discuss the demands of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican's former ambassador to the United States.

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The Vatican said on Tuesday that the US delegation would be headed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and also include Francis' top sex abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

After the allegation was publicised in June, it emerged that it was apparently an open secret - including at the Vatican - that McCarrick routinely molested seminarians and young priests and harassed them.

Archbishop Vigano has called on Pope Francis to resign because of reports that the pope knew and failed to act on accusations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Washington. Two of those allegations resulted in settlements, the bishops said.

The unprecedented summit is scheduled to take place February 21-24 and comes on the heels of serious questions about Pope Francis's handling of the sexual abuse committed by Catholic bishops and priests most recently in the United States and Chile.

In the note, Cardinal Wuerl acknowledged that many Catholics in the archdiocese "have questions about their bishop's ability to provide the necessary leadership".

Since the Pennsylvania report was issued last month, prosecutors in a half-dozen US states have announced plans for similar investigations.

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