Pope calls world's Bishops to meeting on sexual abuse of children

The announcement came on the eve of a meeting in the Vatican on Thursday between the pope and a group of leading bishops from the United States.

The pope called the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to gather from Feb. 21 to 24, according to the Vatican, which added that he had “amply reflected” on the issue with his top council of cardinal advisers during three days of meetings that ended on Wednesday. It would be the first global gathering of church leaders to discuss the crisis.

The announcement came on the eve of a meeting in the Vatican on Thursday between the pope and a group of leading bishops from the United States. They are seeking answers from the pope and a full investigation into why one of their most prominent colleagues was allowed to ascend to a top position in the American church, despite allegations that he had sexually abused seminarians.

Reports of misconduct by that prelate, Theodore E. McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, D.C., led to his resignation as cardinal.

His successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, revealed on Tuesday that he planned to discuss his resignation with Francis. The cardinal, formerly the archbishop of Pittsburgh, has faced withering criticism since the release last month of a grand jury report saying that more than 1,000 children had been victimized over decades in Pennsylvania, and that church leaders had covered it up.

The case of McCarrick continues to shake the church, after a bombshell letter by the formal Vatican ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accusing Francis of lifting sanctions against the American that had been put in place by Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Since Viganò published his letter and called for Francis’ resignation late last month, reports have cast doubt on whether Benedict formally penalized McCarrick, and have shown that the Vatican knew about the American’s practice of inviting seminarians into his bed since 2000.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Jason Horowitz © 2018 The New York Times

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