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Pope Francis spoke during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 12.
Pope Francis spoke during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 12.
Photo Credit: Paul Haring | Catholic News Service

As abuse crisis continues, pope to meet with USCCB officers, Vatican says

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops’ conference in the world to Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. In addition, the pope will meet with officers from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 13 at the Vatican.

The Vatican made the announcement about the global meeting on Sept. 12 after the pope and members of his international Council of Cardinals wrapped up three days of meetings.

After hearing from his council, the pope “decided to convoke a meeting with the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the protection of minors,” the council stated in a communique.

The members “extensively reflected … with the Holy Father on the matters of abuse” during deliberations Sept. 10-12. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also updated those present with the commission’s efforts.

Three of the nine council members were absent for the meetings: Cardinal George Pell, 77, who currently is on trial in Australia on sex abuse charges; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, 85, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who is facing questioning about his handling of abuse allegations; and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, who turns 79 in early October.

The six present for the meeting were: Cardinals O’Malley, 74; Pietro Parolin, 63, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, 75, of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Oswald Gracias, 73, of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, 64, of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Giuseppe Bertello, 75, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

The papally appointed group of nine cardinals, the so-called C9, has been tasked with helping advise the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and Church governance.

Pope Francis was to have met Sept. 13 with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and with Cardinal O’Malley the Vatican press office announced.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference, also will participate in the meeting, according to Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office.

Cardinal DiNardo stated Aug. 16 that he was requesting the meeting at the Vatican following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on the mishandling of hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in six dioceses and after news was released that allegations of child sexual abuse committed by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal-archbishop of Washington, were found to be credible.

The USCCB Executive Committee, Cardinal DiNardo stated, met recently and established three goals: “an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints.”

Achieving the goals would involve “consultation with experts, laity and clergy, as well as the Vatican.,” he wrote. “We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.

“The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.”

Responding quickly and appropriately to the problem of abuse must be a priority for the Catholic Church, said Cardinal O’Malley, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“Recent events in the Church have us all focused on the urgent need for a clear response on the part of the Church for the sexual abuse of minors” and vulnerable adults, he told Vatican News Sept. 9. “Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the Church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the Church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise.”

Cardinal O’Malley told Vatican News that in cases of abuse “if the Church is unable to respond wholeheartedly and make this a priority, all of our other activities of evangelization, works of mercy, education are all going to suffer. This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now.”

According to Cardinal O’Malley, the pontifical commission is an advisory body for making recommendations to the pope and to develop and offer guidelines, best practices and formation to Church leaders throughout the world, including bishops’ conferences, religious orders and offices in the Roman Curia.

Cdl. Wuerl to meet with pope to discuss resignation

By Mark Zimmermann | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington told the priests of the archdiocese that he will meet soon with Pope Francis to request that he accept the resignation the cardinal submitted three years ago when he turned 75.

The cardinal wrote that this meeting is one part of a two-fold response he has concluded is the best way to serve the church as it moves into the future. The second is to participate in a process of healing for all those who suffered abuse.

The cardinal made the comments in a letter sent the evening of Sept. 11 to the priests of the archdiocese. He recently met and prayed with the clergy to discuss and discern his leadership.

Cardinal Wuerl said he would meet with the pope in Rome “so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.” He cited a need to “bring healing and a new beginning at the service of this Church.”

The cardinal submitted his resignation to Pope Francis Nov. 12, 2015, when he turned 75, as required by canon law, but the pope has not yet accepted it.

“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,” the cardinal stated in his letter.

Cardinal Wuerl has been under heavy criticism following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in mid-August that detailed sexual abuse that more than 1,000 survivors alleged they suffered at the hands of 300 priests and other Church workers over the past seven decades in six dioceses in that state.

The dioceses included Pittsburgh, which was headed by then-Bishop Wuerl from 1988 until he was named archbishop of Washington in 2006.

In an earlier letter to priests, Cardinal Wuerl said that he will celebrate a Sept. 14 Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral to initiate a six-week “Season of Healing” in the Archdiocese of Washington. The cardinal’s Sept. 11 letter was shared so that this Mass would not be overshadowed by questions about his status.

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