Pope orders investigation of US 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

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The U.S. conference of bishops issued what is considered the gold-standard policy in 2002, requiring accusations of abuse to be reported to police and the permanent removal from ministry of any priest found to have abused a minor.

The Pope held an emergency summit with a delegation of American bishops at the Vatican to consider a response to a U.S. grand jury report in July that 1,000 children had been molested in Pennsylvania since the 1940s.

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.

Francis' key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, a day before Francis meets with USA church leaders who have been discredited anew by the latest accusations in the Catholic Church's decades-long sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

But he said the years-long scandal, and recent revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, showed just "how many souls have been wounded irrevocably and mortally by priests from the Catholic Church".

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

Francis' key cardinal advisers announced plans for the summit early next year the day before the pope meets with US church leaders embroiled in their own credibility crisis from the latest accusations in the Catholic Church's decades-long sex abuse scandal.

They included the finding that priests sexually assaulted more than 3,600 children in Germany over almost seven decades.

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According to a new poll published by the U.S. news channel CNN on Wednesday, Pope Francis's popularity has nosedived in the United States recently.

In other eyebrow-raising comments on Tuesday, a top aide to both Francis and Benedict said the sex abuse scandal was such a game-changing catastrophe for the church that it amounted to its "own 9/11". And the report says that in several instances, church files documenting abuse have been altered or destroyed.

Earlier this morning, news from Rome announced that the Pope will be summoning the presidents of the Catholic Bishops conferences from around the world - top officials of the Catholic Church - to discuss the escalating sexual abuse scandals dominating countless headlines.

DiNardo has said that he wants the pope to approve a full investigation of the McCarrick case, and that reports of a cover-up by the Vatican and the pope himself need to be answered.

The summit was announced a day before Francis will meet American church leaders hit by fresh accusations over the cover-up of sex abuse by priests.

McCarrick resigned in July over separate allegations - which U.S. Church officials said were "credible and substantiated" - that he had abused a 16-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago. "It was a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange", the statement said.

They are expected to talk about clergy sexually abusing children and years of church officials covering up abuse claims against parish priests.

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