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Francis summons all bishops’ conference leaders to Rome

By Susan Gately - 14 September, 2018

Pope Francis (Photo: Magnus Aronson/WCC)

For the first time in church history, the Pope has summoned all the leaders of the national bishops’ conferences to Rome for a meeting on the theme of the “protection of minors”.

The summons came on Wednesday, in the wake of horrific revelations concerning child abuse by priests in the US and Germany.

The decision was reached during a two-day meeting of the Council of Cardinals, where they reflected together with Pope Francis on the abuse problems. The gathering of the various national episcopal conference leaders with the Pope will take place from 21 to 24 February.

Yesterday, Pope Francis had a private meeting with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston–Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles; and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a member of the Council of Cardinals and the head of Francis’s advisory commission on clerical abuse.

In a statement following the meeting, Cardinal DiNardo said the bishops were grateful for the audience. “We shared with Pope Francis our situation in the United States – how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse. He listened very deeply from the heart. It was a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange.”

Departing the audience, Cardinal DiNardo said the men prayed the Angelus together “for God’s mercy and strength as we work to heal the wounds. We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together identifying the most effective next steps.”

Meanwhile in Germany, a leaked copy of a report commissioned by the Church on child abuse has revealed that more than 3,600 children in Germany were assaulted by Catholic priests between 1946 and 2014.

According to the report, published by Der Spiegel on Wednesday, 1,670 clergymen in Germany committed some form of sexual assault on 3,677 minors. The report said about 38 per cent of the alleged perpetrators were prosecuted, with most facing only minor disciplinary procedures.

The study, commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference, aimed to shed light on “this dark side of our Church, for the sake of those affected, but also for us ourselves to see the errors and to do everything to prevent them from being repeated”, according to Bishop Stephan Ackermann, a spokesman for the German bishops.

It was compiled by three German universities, using 38,000 documents from 27 German dioceses. Its authors said the true extent of the abuse may be even greater, as some records were destroyed. Bishop Ackermann said the bishops were “dismayed and ashamed” by the findings of the report, which was to have been published on 25 September 2018.

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