Pope Francis Calls Catholic Leaders Together For Unprecedented Meeting On Sexual Abuse Crisis

The pope has faced increasing pressure to take action against the past abuse in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis is bringing top Catholic officials together for an unprecedented meeting focused on the ongoing issue of sexual abuse in the church. As the Vatican announced on Wednesday morning, the pope has called Catholic bishops from around the world to gather for a discussion of the crisis from Feb. 21—24. 

The pope's summon follows three days of meetings with his top council of cardinal advisers in which he "amply reflected" on the issue. "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, according to CNN.

Pope Francis has faced growing criticism for his role in confronting the history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, particularly as allegations continue to arise. On Thursday, he is expected to meet with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other church leaders over the allegations surrounding former top American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick. 

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McCarrick resigned in July amid accusations of abuse against seminarians and an altar boy. The circumstances of his departure prompted many, including some senior church officials, to raise questions about whether the allegations against McCormick were known, even as he continued to rise to his high-ranking position in the church. 

Further evidence of abuse within the Catholic Church arose again only weeks after McCarrick's resignation. In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report detailing decades of horrific sexual abuses of over 1,000 children by more than 300 "predator priests," as well as allegations of subsequent cover-ups by bishops. 

The pope initially garnered backlash from the public for failing to respond to the report's findings. He later penned an open letter that condemned the Catholic Church's failure to take action against the abuse of minors and acknowledged a growing cry for accountability on the part of the Vatican. "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them," he wrote in the letter, also adding, "Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such [abuses] from happening." 

The pope's call for the February meeting is seemingly his latest effort to put the issue of abuse in the church at the forefront. The upcoming gathering would mark the first time that Catholic leaders from around the globe have come together to discuss the crisis that has, according to reports, surrounded the church for decades. 

Cover image via giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com.

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