(Reuters/NAN) Pope Francis has summoned the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences from around the world to the Vatican in February for a meeting to discuss the protection of minors from sexual abuse, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
A Vatican spokesperson said the meeting would take place from Feb. 21, 2019 to Feb. 24, 2019.
The calling of the February meeting comes in the wake of fresh sexual abuse scandals in a number of countries, including the U.S., Chile and Australia.
The Catholic Church in the U.S. has been shaken by 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.
Francis is due to meet on Thursday with U.S. Catholic Church leaders who want to discuss the fallout from the report as well as a scandal involving a former American cardinal and demands from an archbishop that the pontiff step down.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), asked for the meeting after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano in August, accused the pope of knowing for years about sexual misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and of doing nothing about it.
Francis has refused to respond to claims by the retired ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, that Francis rehabilitated ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from canonical sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Vatican has known since 2000 that McCarrick slept with seminarians.
Francis removed him as cardinal following accusations he groped a teenager.