Pope Francis summons Catholic bishops from around world for unprecedented meeting over sex abuse scandals

The theme of the meeting will be 'protection of minors', the Vatican says

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Wednesday 12 September 2018 16:26 BST
Pope Francis has summoned bishops conferences from around the world to meet at the Vatican to discuss sex abuse scandals
Pope Francis has summoned bishops conferences from around the world to meet at the Vatican to discuss sex abuse scandals

Pope Francis has taken the unprecedented step of calling the Catholic Church’s top officials to a meeting to discuss the increasing number of sexual abuse scandals involving clergy members.

The summit with the presidents of all the bishops around the world is set to take place at the Vatican in February next year.

It will be the first meeting of its kind, with more than 100 bishop conferences attending.

“The Holy Father Francis, after hearing the Council of Cardinals, has decided to convene a meeting with the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the 'protection of minors,'” the Vatican press office said in a statement.

The announcement comes just one day before Pope Francis is due to meet with US church leaders over the recent allegations of abuse from a Pennsylvania grand jury report which claimed 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s — and that a string of bishops in six dioceses covered up for them, including the current archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US. Conference of Catholic Bishops will lead the delegation at the meeting on 13 September, which will also include Pope Francis' top adviser on the sexual abuse scandal matter, Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

Since the Pennsylvania report, at least six other US states have said they will launch similar investigations.

'I beg the Lord’s forgiveness' for child abuse 'betrayal' says Pope Francis at a service in Knock, Ireland

Earlier this year, the pope admitted to "grave errors in judgment” over a sex abuse scandal in Chile, having made statements discrediting the alleged victims.

The pope also issued an unprecedented letter last month, in which he acknowledged “once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons”.

"Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated,” Francis wrote.

In light of the Pennsylvania scandal, the pope also admitted the Church "showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."

Critics have pointed out Vatican City itself does not have guidelines for preventing abuse of minors or adults, though the city state had promised the United Nations in 2013 it would draft written guidelines to protect children in particular.

In 2011, the Vatican had ordered every bishops conference around the world to develop written guidelines and said the guidelines should specify how bishops should tend to victims, punish offenders, and keep paedophiles out of the priesthood.

While most have obliged other conferences, particularly in Africa, have not - citing a lack of resources or other impediments.

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