The Catholic church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors, deeply damaging confidence in the church in the United States, Chile, Australia and Ireland where the scandal has hit hardest, and elsewhere.
Pope Francis will meet leaders of the US Catholic Church at the Vatican today, after a high profile accusation that the pontiff covered up sexual abuse allegations against an American cardinal.
The meeting, scheduled for February 21-24, would assemble more than 100 churchmen to represent every bishops' conference.
The decision comes on the same day a US delegation met with the pope over the latest chapter in the Catholic Church's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal.
In recent weeks, the Catholic Church, and Cardinal Wuerl in particular, have been rocked by a Pennsylvania grand-jury report on the mishandling of sex abuse charges by six of the state's dioceses and by the recent revelations of decades of serial sexual abuse and misconduct by his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.
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The Americans have called on Francis to launch a Vatican-led investigation into how Theodore McCarrick, a former United States cardinal, climbed the ranks, even as rumours swirled about his behaviour.
Pope Francis met with 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.
The Vatican and US church officials announced the investigation on Thursday as the pope was meeting US Catholic church leaders to discuss a scandal that has shaken his papacy.
McCarrick is accused of sexually abusing a teenager in the 1970s and young religious workers.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said DiNardo and O'Malley would meet with Francis on Thursday in the Apostolic Palace.
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"In these times, it seems like the "Great Accuser" has been unchained and has it in for bishops", he said. "He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people". His statement said the group told Francis the USA church was "lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".
The Vatican said on Tuesday that the US delegation would be headed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and also include Francis' top sex abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
This comes as an archbishop accuses the Pope of covering up sexual abuse allegations against an American cardinal.
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