Pope to meet USA church leaders over 'abuse cover-up'

The Vatican said in a statement the pope would meet US church leaders on Thursday

The Vatican said in a statement the pope would meet US church leaders on Thursday

Pope Francis has summoned senior Catholic bishops from around the world to the Vatican to discuss the protection of minors, in his latest attempt to come to grips with a spreading sexual abuse crisis.

As Pope Francis sat down at the Vatican Thursday with a delegation of USA bishops and cardinals to discuss how to gain ground in the sexual abuse crisis engulfing the Catholic Church, fresh scandals emerged on both sides of the Atlantic.

The meeting at the Vatican in February is believed to be the first of its kind, and signals a realisation from the highest levels of the church that clerical abuse is a global problem.

In addition, the Vatican has been rocked by an archbishop's accusations that the Pope knew for years about alleged sexual misconduct by a top American cardinal but took no action.

The Vatican hasn't responded to allegations by its former ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, that Francis effectively rehabilitated McCarrick from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI over allegations McCarrick would routinely invite seminarians to his beach house and into his bed.

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.

"In these times, it seems like the "Great Accuser" [a reference to Satan] has been unchained and is attacking bishops", Pope Francis said.

A contingent of American bishops is meeting on Thursday with the Pope in Rome, but Wuerl is not among them, according to the Vatican. The guidelines were supposed to specify how bishops should tend to victims, punish offenders and keep pedophiles out of the priesthood.

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While most have obliged, other conferences particularly in Africa have not, either citing lack of resources or other impediments.

The U.S. isn't alone in digging into its past.

The US Catholic Church has been shaken by the publication of a report on sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania and by the resignation in July of US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

No details were given on what exactly was discussed at the meeting or what the US church plans to do.

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 past of the Catholic Church is being dug up in other countries.

He added: 'Today, even the Catholic Church looks full of confusion at its own 9/11, at its own September 11, even though this catastrophe isn't associated with a single date but rather at so many days and years, and innumerable victims'.

The witnesses said they were sexually abused as teens by Fr. Stanley Gana, who was highlighted in Philadelphia grand jury reports in both 2005 and 2011. "The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence".

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