Pope receives US Church leaders to discuss clerical sex abuse crisis

The Latest: Sex abuse: Pope to meet Thursday with US bishops

Cardinal Wuerl says in letter he will meet with Pope Francis to discuss possible resignation

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the head of all USA bishops, pushed for this meeting and wants a Vatican investigation into how disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick rose to the highest levels of the church despite allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Pope held an emergency summit with a delegation of American bishops at the Vatican to consider a response to a U.S. grand jury report in July that 1,000 children had been molested in Pennsylvania since the 1940s. A Vatican statement said the meeting also will include Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield.

Last month Francis called for "silence and prayer" for those involved in the scandal and criticised Irish church authorities for failing to act to sexual over abuse allegations after he met with victims in Dublin. They are to discuss the church's sexual abuse scandal in the country and the cover-up of years of abuse claims against hundreds of parish priests.

Separately, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said on its website that Mr Bransfield, 75, will be investigated over "allegations of sexual harassment of adults".

The McCarrick affair - coupled with revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses, including Allentown - has fueled outrage among the rank-and-file faithful who had trusted church leaders to reform themselves after the abuse scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002.

He said a decision about his future "is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan church we all love can move forward".

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 USA church had been "lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

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Di Nardo said he wants Francis to authorise a full-fledged Vatican investigation into ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was removed as cardinal in July after a credible accusation that he groped a teenager.

The announcement was made as the pope was meeting U.S. Catholic Church leaders to discuss the fallout from a scandal involving a former American cardinal and demands from an archbishop that the pontiff step down.

The Vatican said Francis accepted his resignation Thursday and appointed Baltimore Archbishop William Lori to take over Bransfield's Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily.

Since the Pennsylvania report was issued last month, prosecutors in a half-dozen USA states have announced plans for similar investigations.

Claiming the Pope had personally ignored abuse allegations against prominent U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years, Vigano also called on Francis to step down.

Pope Francis poses with officials representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during a meeting at the Vatican Sept. 13.

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