Pope summons bishops for summit on sex-abuse prevention

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

The meeting of Episcopal Conference presidents will be held at the Vatican from February 21 to 24, the C9 cardinals' conference that advises the pope on reform said in a statement.

The summit recalls the April 2002 meeting John Paul called with the senior United States church leadership after the sex abuse scandal first exploded publicly in Boston.

This is the first time a global gathering of bishops has taken place to discuss the worldwide scandal of abuse in the Church and was ordered by the Pope following a request from his cardinal advisory body.

Victims' advocates immediately dismissed the event as belated damage control, an action publicized hastily as allegations regarding Francis' record of handling abuse cases - and accumulated outrage among rank-and-file Catholic faithful over covered-up crimes - jeopardize his papacy. However, a pope is not obliged to accept such a resignation and Pope Francis has essentially kept Cardinal Wuerl in office in Washington ever since.

The US church was also rocked by a grand jury report that said 300 priests in Pennsylvania had abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s.

Pope Francis is summoning leading bishops from around the world for a summit on the sex abuse crisis that threatens to engulf the Catholic Church. The meeting in February will bring together the heads of all national bishops' conferences, from more than 100 countries.

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DiNardo said the report shows the pain of those who have been victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, and by those who protected the abusers and permitted the actions to continue. Protocols for dealing with abuse in the church vary from country to country. But within the divided church, Francis's stance on the underlying reasons for abuse have been contested.

Wuerl has been accused of covering up child sex abuse in the church, and of knowing about allegations of molestation leveled at his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick (pictured).

Francis's key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, a day before Francis meets with USA church leaders who have been deeply discredited by the latest accusations in the Catholic Church's decades-long sex abuse and coverup scandal. Two of those allegations resulted in settlements, the bishops said.

A leaked copy of a report found Wednesday contains Germany's Catholic Church admitting to at least 3,766 instances of child abuse between 1946 and 2014, according to Die Zeit and Spiegel Online.

"There's absolutely no reason to think any good will come of such a meeting", said David Clohessy, a former director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests who noted that the work of whistleblowers, investigators and journalists was a better way to expose wrongdoing and end coverups.

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