Pope Francis summons bishops for summit on clergy sex abuse

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A grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania recently found that more than 300 priests had abused at least 1,000 young people over a period of 70 years. After news broke of the investigation, several former seminarians and priests came forward to report that they too had been abused or harassed by McCarrick as adults.

Pope Francis has summoned senior bishops from around the world to the Vatican in February to discuss the protection of minors from sexual abuse, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

The outrage has also been directed at Francis and the Vatican and has fueled conservative criticism of Francis' pontificate.

An open question in advance of the summit is whether the Vatican will issue a universal call for bishops and religious superiors to report suspected abuse to police; now, it advises church leaders to report suspected abuse when it's required under local laws.

"The Holy Father Francis, after hearing the Council of Cardinals, has made a decision to convene a meeting with the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of "Protection of Minors", the Vatican said.

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Mr DiNardo has said recent accusations of top Vatican officials, including the current pope, covering up for McCarrick deserve answers.

The Vatican said that among those meeting the pope would be the head of the US bishops' conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of the Galveston-Houston area, and Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston.

As a result the former papal envoy to Washington called for the pope to resign.

The Vatican in 2011 ordered every bishops conference around the world to develop written guidelines to prevent abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

The surprise announcement was largely dismissed as a belated damage control effort by victims' advocates.

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Remarkably, Vatican City itself has no such policy, even though the Holy See promised the United Nations five years ago that it was developing a "safe environment program" - including written guidelines - to protect children inside the 110-acre (44-hectare) Vatican City.

While Wuerl has argued parishioners should be allowed to know if a priest facing allegations of child molestation has been moved to another church, he allegedly engaged in the practice himself.

AFP journalists saw O'Malley leaving the Vatican, and the Holy See released two photos of the meeting, but no statement.

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".

Since the Pennsylvania report was issued last month, prosecutors in a half-dozen US states have announced plans for similar investigations.

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