Pope orders investigation of USA bishop accused of sexual misconduct

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

Pope Francis meets U.S. Catholic Church leaders and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a private audience at the Vatican, Sept.13, 2018.

A Vatican spokeswoman said the summit would be attended by the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences between February 21-24.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl was named in Philadelphia's grand jury report into sex abuse in the Catholic Church as someone who had allowed priests to continue working despite allegations of sexual assault during his time as Archbishop of Pittsburgh.

A delegation of US cardinals and bishops is already heading to the Vatican Thursday to meet with Francis over accusations from a retired Vatican ambassador that he rehabilitated a top American cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI for having molested and harassed adult seminarians.

The Vatican said Tuesday the meeting would be headed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and also include Francis's top adviser on issues related to sex abuse, Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

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Hours after Vigano made the statement to conservative Catholic news media, Francis had told journalists he "won't say a word" about the sensational claims.

Pope Francis removed McCarrick from his position as a cardinal in July.

On the eve of this meeting at the Vatican, Di Nardo was added to the list of high Catholic clerics in the US who may have failed to prevent a priest suspected of abuse from having contact with minors.

Last month, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano sparked a firestorm when he accused Pope Francis of covering up sexual abuse allegations against an American cardinal.

In the letter, Wuerl said he's asking himself what is the best way he can serve the church and said he has heard that the archdiocese of Washington "would be well served by new leadership to help move beyond the current confusion, disappointment and disunity".

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The Vatican announced Thursday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield, and had named a temporary administrator for his Wheeling-Charleston diocese.

Her parents "decided not to pursue the matter" and left the country, and the priest was allowed to resume his duties in 2004 after an internal investigation, the statement said.

In Germany, a first-of-its kind study leaked to German news outlets found that over the past seven decades, at least 3,677 children have been sexually abused by clergy members there.

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

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston spokesman Tim Bishop said Thursday he couldn't answer questions about Bransfield's whereabouts or whether he has an attorney.

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