Pope Francis Summons Bishops for Summit on Preventing Clergy Sex Abuse

Pope Francis asperges holy water as he celebrates a Pentecost mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Sunday

The Latest: Sex abuse: Pope to meet Thursday with US bishops

On the eve of the USA audience, Francis announced he was summoning the presidents of bishops conferences around the world to a February summit to discuss prevention measures and protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

The meeting of more than 100 Roman Catholic officials is believed to be the first of its kind and a recognition that church leaders think the sex abuse scandal is an worldwide problem.

In an embarrassing coincidence, Bishop Bransfield's cousin, Father Brian Bransfield, was among those meeting the Pope.

The meeting follows a series of calls by commentators for the Pope Francis to release files held on Archbishop McCarrick in Rome and at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C.

The announcement comes the same day a delegation led by USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston met with the Pope to discuss the sexual abuse scandals rocking the Catholic Church in America.

The Americans have called on Francis to launch a Vatican-led investigation into how Theodore McCarrick, a former United States cardinal, climbed the ranks, even as rumours swirled about his behaviour.

The Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors.

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A diocesan statement also referred to allegations the priest, Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, abused a 16-year-old girl in 2001.

In July, Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned amid claims of abuse.

Even as actions to address Chile were underway, Francis' papacy was jolted last month by accusations from a retired Vatican ambassador that Francis himself rehabilitated a top American cardinal accused of molesting and harassing adult seminarians. The development, announced just as a highly anticipated meeting between Francis and US cardinals and bishops was getting under way, lent a dramatic twist to the emergency gathering, called to address another scandal involving an ex-U.S. cardinal.

The US prelate was removed and ordered to live a lifetime of penance and prayer by Pope Francis after a church investigation determined that an allegation he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.

The meeting had been requested by Cardinal Di Nardo following the damaging release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in July that, since 1947, hundreds of priests in the state sexually abused more than 1,000 children - and the news that a now-demoted cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, rose through the ranks within the church, despite officials in the Vatican and in the us knowing about sexual allegations against him dating back to 2000.

The Pontiff will meet with top officials from the Catholic Church early next year, the Vatican press office confirmed this afternoon. "True, we are all sinners, we bishops". He said the devil "tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people".

Last month, the Vatican expressed "shame and sorrow" over the sexual abuse of at least 1,000 children by more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania.

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