Pope summons bishops for February meeting on preventing sexual abuse

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The Council of Cardinals, jocularly referred to as the C9 by Vatican News, was established by Pope Francis a month after his election to advise him in the governance of the Catholic Church and in the reformation of the Curia. When Wuerl spoke with Francis at the end of August, the pope told him to consult his priests about what he should do - and Wuerl did so at an annual Labor Day picnic for clergy, which he referred to in his letter on Tuesday.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the embattled archbishop of Washington, said Tuesday that he expects to meet soon with Pope Francis to discuss the possibility of resigning.

Cardinal Wuerl, as is customary, presented his resignation from the College of Cardinals upon his 75th birthday three years ago.

Wuerl, who was bishop of Pittsburg for some 18 years, offered to resign almost three years ago when he turned 75 but Francis hasn't accepted it. 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.

But he acknowledged Catholics' questions about their bishops' ability to lead them to healing amid a massive sex-abuse crisis and said he will discuss his resignation.

The U.S. conference of bishops issued what is considered the gold-standard policy in 2002, requiring accusations of abuse to be reported to police and the permanent removal from ministry of any priest found to have abused a minor.

Francis plans to meet on Thursday at the Vatican with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Pope's top adviser on clergy sex abuse.

A decision about his future "is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan church we all love can move forward", Wuerl said, according to CNN. Archbishop Jose Gomez, vice president of the bishops' conference, and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, the conference secretary, will also attend, according to the Vatican.

McCarrick resigned in July over separate allegations - which U.S. Church officials said were "credible and substantiated" - that he had abused a 16-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago.

"Francis, who has put the Vatican back on the geopolitical stage, knows that when he needs a savvy back channel operator he can turn to McCarrick", he said.

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

Pope Francis' top advisers have said the Vatican is preparing the "necessary clarifications" about accusations that the Pope covered up the sexual misconduct of a now-disgraced American cardinal.

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