Pope to meet United States church leaders over 'abuse cover-up'

Pope Francis

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Wuerl has said he plans to travel to Rome in the near future to meet with Pope Francis to discuss his resignation.

In August, a grand jury report in the USA state of Pennsylvania concluded that the US Catholic Church systematically hushed up sex abuses committed by 301 priests over a period of 70 years.

It was clear that some decision, sooner rather than later, on my part is an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward. As a fruit of our discernment I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented almost three years ago, November 12, 2015.

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into an American bishop accused of sexually harassing adults.

The Cardinal said the Pope had asked him to work out what he wanted to do "as we face new revelations of the extent of the horror of the clergy abuse of children and the failures in episcopal oversight".

The sex abuse crisis engulfing the Pope has escalated after he was forced to investigate a U.S. bishop accused of molestation and a report said that there were thousands of victims of predatory priests in Germany.

Bransfield was investigated in 2007 for an alleged groping incident and he was also implicated in court testimony in a 2012 Philadelphia priest sex abuse case.

Francis removed him in July when the allegations were deemed credible, and since then, several other former seminarians and priests have come forward saying they were also abused or harassed by McCarrick.

In the letter, Wuerl said he's asking himself what is the best way he can serve the church and said he has heard that the archdiocese of Washington "would be well served by new leadership to help move beyond the current confusion, disappointment and disunity".

Wuerl has been accused of covering up child sex abuse in the church, and of knowing about allegations of molestation leveled at his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick (pictured).

Francis' key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, a day before Francis meets with USA church leaders, who are facing fresh accusations following the bombshell grand jury report.

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

At the same time as the top USA church leaders were sitting down to speak to Pope Francis today, the Vatican announced that the pope had accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia and has asked the archbishop of Baltimore to launch an investigation into allegations that the bishop had sexually harassed adults.

The cardinal's "recent statements that he knew nothing about it", said Viganò, "are absolutely laughable".

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 United States church officials.

The pope's acceptance of his resignation was announced just as a four-member USA delegation of bishops - including Bransfield's cousin, Monsignor Brian Bransfield - was meeting with Francis about the impact of recent revelations of sex abuse by priests and cover-ups by the church that have implicated Francis himself. The Vatican announced his resignation while his cousin, Rev. Brian Bransfield, was in that same meeting with the pope.

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