Sex abuse: Pope to meet Thursday with USA bishops

Pope Francis reaches out to hug Cardinal Archbishop emeritus Theodore Mc Carrick after the Midday Prayer of the Divine with more than 300 U.S. Bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew

It also alleged that he concealed information when priests were reported to law enforcement and oversaw insufficient church investigations into abuse.

Pope Francis will meet at the Vatican with leaders of the U.S. Catholic Church, including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, to discuss clergy sexual abuse.

Three of the nine council members were absent for the meetings: Cardinal George Pell, 77, who now is on trial in Australia on sex abuse charges; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, 85, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who is facing questioning over his handling of abuse allegations; and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, who turns 79 in early October.

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.

After weeks of relative silence, Pope Francis has agreed to meet a delegation of USA bishops and cardinals to discuss the Vatican response to the clergy abuse crisis.

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A top Vatican official says the clerical sex abuse scandal is such a game-changing catastrophe for the Catholic Church that he called it the church's "own 9/11" on the 17th anniversary of the attacks in the U.S.

Pope Francis has convened the Presidents of all the Episcopal Conferences of the whole world for a meeting in Rome to discuss the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

DiNardo has also said recent accusations that top Vatican officials - including the current Pope - covered up for McCarrick since 2000 deserve answers.

The Archbishop of Washington has said he will travel to Rome to ask the Pope to consider accepting his resignation.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a policy in 2002 that is regarded as the gold standard policy. Archbishop Viganò writes that the Vatican was aware of McCarrick allegations in 2000, but despite that was named Archbishop of Washington and made a cardinal in 2001. Protocols for dealing with abuse in the church vary wildly from country to country. Every sixth case involved rape, more than half of the victims were 13-years-old or younger and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, Spiegel Online and Die Zeit said. Many cases were not brought to justice, and sometimes abuse suspects - primarily priests - were moved to other dioceses without new congregations being informed about the pastor's past, they said.

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