Cardinal Wuerl to discuss possible resignation with Pope Francis

Pope Francis arrives to lead the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican

Francis eventually admitted to "grave errors in judgment" and took steps to make amends, including securing offers of resignation from every active member of Chile's bishops' conference.

Pope Francis will host a meeting in February of senior bishops from around the globe to discuss "the protection of minors", the Vatican announced on Wednesday.

The McCarrick scandal took on crisis proportions two weeks ago after the Vatican's former United States ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, accused two dozen Vatican and USA cardinals and bishops by name of covering up for McCarrick.

Pope Francis summoned the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences Wednesday to a summit on preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children, responding to the greatest crisis of his papacy with the realization that Vatican inaction on the growing global scandal now threatens his legacy.

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 Vatican has known since at least 2000 that McCarrick would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.

The Vatican's former ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, released an explosive letter on August 26, accusing top Vatican and U.S. church leaders of covering up for McCarrick for many years.

Wuerl had been implicated in a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse, which claimed that the cardinal had approved transfers for abusing priests instead of removing them from ministry.

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Wuerl has also been embroiled in the allegations of molestation leveled at former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Specifically, Vigano accused Francis of rehabilitating McCarrick from canonical sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 or 2010.

A top Vatican official earlier this week acknowledged that some allegations against McCarrick were brought to the Vatican's attention as early as 2000.

Wuerl, who was bishop of Pittsburgh for about 18 years, offered to resign almost three years ago, when he turned 75, but Francis has not yet accepted it.

He announced Tuesday that he will be meeting with the pope in the near future about the mandatory resignation letter he submitted when he turned 75 in 2015.

Since the Pennsylvania report was issued last month, prosecutors in six USA states have announced plans for similar investigations.

The commission set up by Francis said on Sunday that the fight against abuse must be a Church priority and emphasised the importance of listening to victims.

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