Bishop Michael Bransfield resigns; sexual harassment investigation launched

Pope Francis asperges holy water as he celebrates a Pentecost mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Sunday

Pope To Meet With U.S. Church Leaders Over Clergy Sex Abuse

The grand jury's report focused on not just the sexual abuse - ranging from fondling to rape - committed by priests, but the role of the church's bishops, including Cardinal Wuerl when he was bishop of Pittsburgh, in moving miscreants to other parishes, in silencing or buying off victims and families, and in not reporting criminal acts to authorities.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Monsignor Michael Bransfield as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in the USA state of West Virginia, a Vatican statement said.

A Vatican spokeswoman said the summit would be attended by the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences between February 21-24.

The decision comes on the same day a USA delegation met with the pope over the latest chapter in the Catholic Church's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

The accusations shook the US Church, following a damning Grand Jury report in the state of Pennsylvania that found that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.

The Vatican's former ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, released an explosive letter on August 26, accusing top Vatican and U.S. church leaders of covering up for McCarrick for many years.

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Francis' key cardinal advisers announced plans for the summit early next year the day before the pope meets with US church leaders embroiled in their own credibility crisis from the latest accusations in the Catholic Church's decades-long sex abuse scandal.

The Vatican hasn't responded to the accusations, but presumably the "clarifications" it has promised will come sometime after Francis meets with the top United States church leadership this week. Many cases were not brought to justice, and sometimes abuse suspects - primarily priests - were moved to other dioceses without new congregations being informed about the pastor's past, they said.

He said: "In these times, it seems like the 'Great Accuser" has been unchained and has it in for bishops.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said DiNardo and O'Malley would meet with Francis on Thursday in the Apostolic Palace. "He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalise the people". The priest is now the pastor at St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Richmond while also serving as the archdiocese's episcopal vicar for Hispanics.

DiNardo followed up his request for a full-fledged Vatican investigation into the McCarrick affair with a request for answers about allegations that a string of Vatican officials - including Francis - knew of McCarrick's misdeeds since 2000.

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, who retired as Archbishop of Santiago in 2010, is alleged to have participated in cover-ups of clerical sexual abuse in Chile over a period of years.

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