West Virginia Bishop Resigns, Pope Orders Probe of Harassment Claims

Pope Francis joins his hands during the Urbi et Orbi Christmas' day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Monday Dec. 25 2017. (AP

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The archbishop of Baltimore, William E. Lori, has been appointed to fill in on an interim basis in West Virginia - serving in both roles - until a permanent bishop is chosen.

In a separate development, an open letter published on Catholic Women's Forum, which calls on the Pope to respond to allegations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò surrounding the sexual abuse scandal, has gained more than 44,000 signatures in just under two weeks.

After launching a "season of healing" in the archdiocese on 14 September, the cardinal explained to his priests that "in the very near future" he plans "to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented almost three years ago, November 12, 2015".

But that policy has been questioned recently, given it exempted bishops like McCarrick, who according to the church's own laws, can only be judged by the pope.

The USCCB headquarters in Washington, D.C., released a short statement more than three hours after the meeting saying the pope had "listened very deeply from the heart" as they spoke to him in "a lengthy, fruitful and good exchange" about how the US church had been "lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

The Vatican is grappling with claims that the leader of the Catholic Church helped cover up an American cardinal's misconduct.

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No details about the allegations were revealed yet and Bransfield's ministry, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said they had "no idea" where he was.

In the 11-page statement published on 26 August, Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to Washington, launched an unprecedented broadside by a church insider against the pope and a long list of Vatican and U.S. church officials.

The US bishops pictured above are, from left, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the conference, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the conference, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and Msgr.

In a letter to priests sent earlier this week, Wuerl said he planned to meet with Pope Francis "in the near future" to discuss his possible resignation.

Francis' key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, as the latest chapter in the Catholic Church's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal has thrown Francis' papacy into crisis.

DiNardo has said that he wants the pontiff to authorize a full-fledged investigation of the McCarrick case and the allegations of a coverup by the Vatican.

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In February, Catholic bishops from across the world will convene in Rome at the pope's invitation to discuss the "prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults". The Vatican announced his resignation while his cousin, Rev. Brian Bransfield, was in that same meeting with the pope.

The church is now facing abuse scandals in the United States, Chile, Australia, Germany and elsewhere.

The men told the pope how the US Church "is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

In July, McCarrick became the first cardinal to resign in nearly 100 years after American church officials said allegations that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago were credible and substantiated.

He added: "Elitism, clericalism fosters every form of abuse".

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