Pope Francis calls clergy abuse summit as issue imperils papacy

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Pope Francis prays during a weekly general audience at St Peter's Square in Vatican City on November 22, 2017.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Brazilian bishop, the Vatican said Wednesday, after reports of his arrest for allegedly stealing $600,000 of church funds. Many have called for Wuerl's resignation since the report was released. The cardinal, who is 77, handed the pope his resignation when he turned 75, as is standard practice.

"At issue is how to begin effectively to bring a new level of healing to survivors who have personally suffered so much and to the faithful entrusted to our care who have also been wounded by the shame of these bad actions and have questions about their bishop's ability to provide the necessary leadership", Wuerl wrote.

"Our discernment here, I believe, has indicated the way forward to bring healing and a new beginning at the service of this Church".

A Vatican spokesperson said the meeting of the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences would take place February 21-24. However, Cardinal Wuerl will not be attending that meeting and will be staying in Washington D.C. where he has a mass scheduled Friday at St. Matthew's Cathedral.

The USCCB Executive Committee, Cardinal DiNardo had said, met recently and established three goals: "an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints".

Francis' key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, a day before Francis meets with USA church leaders who have been discredited anew by the latest accusations in the Catholic Church's decades-long sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US bishops' conference, asked for the meeting after Viganò last month accused the pope of knowing for years about sexual misconduct by former USA cardinal Theodore McCarrick and doing nothing about it.

The Vatican says Pope Francis will meet Thursday with the head of the USA bishops conference and other top US church officials over the sex abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is facing sexual abuse scandals in the United States, Chile, Australia and Germany, among others.

DiNardo has also said recent claims of cover-up of McCarrick's misconduct - including against top Vatican officials and the pope himself - deserve answers.

Archbishop DiNardo also has said the church must answer accusations by the former Vatican ambassador to the US that Francis and other top Vatican officials have covered up for Archbishop McCarrick since 2000. Also involved are two officials from the U.S. conference, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, according to a Vatican statement.

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