Pope Francis summons bishops to discuss sexual abuse scandal

Pope Francis greets the faithful as he leaves at the end of his Weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City Vatican

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.

With the Catholic Church in crisis once again over clerical sex abuse and cover-up, Pope Francis will meet on Thursday with U.S. cardinals and bishops who are demanding to know how one of their own was able to climb the clerical ranks despite allegations that he slept with seminarians.

The planned Vatican meeting is believed to be unprecedented, indicating that the church recognises that clergy sex abuse is a global problem - potentially even in non-Western countries where the church maintains strong social power and cases have not come to light in great number.

In August, a grand jury report in the USA state of Pennsylvania concluded that the US Catholic Church systematically hushed up sex abuses committed by 301 priests over a period of 70 years.

The head of the USA delegation that met with Pope Francis over the growing sex abuse and cover-up scandal says the US church and Vatican will work together to determine the next steps.

Pope Francis met with United States bishops and cardinals on Thursday to discuss the Vatican's response to a new wave of devastating claims of sexual abuse by clergy.

The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that the archbishop would habitually invite seminary students to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.

"We are grateful to the Holy Father for receiving us in audience", DiNardo said in a statement after the meeting. "The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence".

Wuerl, who was bishop of Pittsburg for some 18 years, offered to resign almost three years ago when he turned 75 but Francis hasn't accepted it.

DiNardo is heading the US delegation at Thursday's audience.

Among the clergymen targeted by Vigano, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington and formerly a bishop in Pennsylvania, is accused of covering up the sexual abuse in that state.

The U.S. isn't alone in digging into its past. The priest is now the pastor at St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Richmond while also serving as the archdiocese's episcopal vicar for Hispanics.

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

A diocesan statement also referred to allegations the priest, Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, abused a 16-year-old girl in 2001. It is likely they will be replaced from the council due to advanced age.

McCarrick is accused of sexually abusing a teenager in the 1970s and young religious workers.

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