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Pope Francis has summoned the presidents of Catholic bishops conferences worldwide to the Vatican in February to discuss how to stop clergy from sexually abusing children.

The Vatican press office said Pope Francis will have presidents of the Catholic bishops conferences convene at the Vatican from February 21 to February 24.

He wrote that Pope Francis instructed him during their recent encounter in Rome to come up with new ways forward for the church "as we face new revelations of the extent of the horror of the clergy abuse of children and the failures in episcopal oversight".

Last month, an explosive grand jury report covering a similar time period in Pennsylvania revealed that 300 "predator priests" had abused more than 1,000 victims with the help of a systematic cover-up by church leaders.

Last month, conservative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed Pope Francis had personally ignored abuse allegations against prominent U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years.

The Vatican has known since at least 2000 that McCarrick would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed, the Associated Press reported.

Francis removed him in July when the allegations were deemed credible, and since then, several other former seminarians and priests have come forward saying they were also abused or harassed by McCarrick.

In a more recent letter addressed to the priests of Washington, D.C., Wuerl indicated that he intends, "in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented almost three years ago, November 12, 2015".

Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke said DiNardo and O'Malley would meet with Francis on Thursday in the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a USA bishop Thursday and authorized an investigation into allegations he sexually harassed adults, adding awkward drama to an audience with US church leaders over the abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church.

Cardinal DiNardo requested the meeting with Pope Francis in order to discuss the allegations in ViganĂ²'s letter which, he said in a statement, deserve answers.

Pope Francis was set to host U.S. bishops and cardinals on Thursday to discuss the Vatican's response to a new wave of devastating claims of sexual abuse by clergy.

In India also, a Catholic bishop belonging to the Jalandhar diocese was accused of rape by a Kerala nun recently.

Those allegations, as well as an explosive letter from a formal papal diplomat, have raised serious questions among senior church leaders about why McCarrick was allowed to rise through the church's ranks, as well as who knew about the accusations.

The McCarrick scandal took on crisis proportions two weeks ago after the Vatican's former USA ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, accused two dozen Vatican and United States cardinals and bishops by name of covering up for McCarrick. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, according to Spiegel Online and Die Zeit, which said they obtained the report that was due to be released September 25.

In recent weeks, the cardinal has faced a barrage of allegations that he mishandled and covered up instances of criminal sexual abuse by priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh.


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