Pope meets with United States church leaders over clergy sex abuse

Pope Francis joins his hands during the Urbi et Orbi Christmas' day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Monday Dec. 25 2017. (AP

Pope Francis joins his hands during the Urbi et Orbi Christmas' day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Monday Dec. 25 2017. (AP

The Vatican press office said Pope Francis will have presidents of the Catholic bishops conferences convene at the Vatican from February 21 to February 24.

The Feb. 21-24 meeting is believed to be the first of its kind, and signals a realization at the highest levels of the church that clergy sex abuse is a global problem and not restricted to the Anglo-Saxon world, as many church leaders have long insisted.

During his homily at Mass on Tuesday morning, Pope Francis blamed the devil for the sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the Catholic church to its core.

In recent weeks, the Catholic Church, and Cardinal Wuerl in particular, have been rocked by a Pennsylvania grand-jury report on the mishandling of sex abuse charges by six of the state's dioceses and by the recent revelations of decades of serial sexual abuse and misconduct by his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

In an explosive 11-page letter, Archbishop Viganò, the former apostolic nuncio to the USA, accused Pope Francis of lifting sanctions that were placed upon the former D.C. Cardinal McCarrick during Pope Benedict's reign, going so far to making him a close adviser.

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Pope Francis meets U.S. Catholic Church leaders Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Archbishop of Los Angeles JosŽ Horacio Gomez, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a private audience at the Vatican, September 13, 2018.

In a more recent letter addressed to the priests of Washington, D.C., Wuerl indicated that he intends, "in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented almost three years ago, November 12, 2015".

But that policy has been questioned recently, given it exempted bishops like McCarrick, who according to the church's own laws, can only be judged by the pope.

The head of the Catholic Church in West Virginia resigned this week.

In a statement afterwards, DiNardo said they told the pope of "our situation in the United States - how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

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The USCCB statement described the encounter as "a lengthy, fruitful and good exchange", but did not enter into details about what was discussed or whether any concrete measures were taken or promised.

Cardinal DiNardo originally announced that he was requesting a meeting with Pope Francis last August 16.

"To now be unfairly included in that group and to hear the horrific allegations that are being made of me is unbelievable and shocking", he said April 19, 2012.

The summit recalls the April 2002 meeting John Paul called with the senior U.S. church leadership after the sex abuse scandal first exploded publicly in Boston.

The conclusions of a study commissioned by the Church in Germany were leaked to the press on Wednesday.

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In July, Francis ordered McCarrick, 88, to observe a lifetime of penance and prayer pending the outcome of a canonical trial into the groping allegation involving a teenage altar boy in the 1970s.

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