Pope Francis has called a meeting with the world’s Catholic bishops in a bid to deal with the problem of sex abuse within the Church.
The meeting – with presidents of more than 100 national bishops’ conferences – is set to take place in February and will be the largest meeting about the issue ever called by a pope.
A Vatican statement said that the meeting would look towards the ‘prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults’.
The move comes after the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, announced he would step down, after receiving criticism for the way he has dealt with abuse claims.
Many people are hopeful that the meeting will lead to huge changes within the Catholic Church, and that the Pope will be responsible if the changes are not sufficient.
John Allen, president of Crux Catholic Media said: “If the meeting ends with statements of regret and of positive resolve but no concrete and meaningful measures to ensure accountability for abuse and coverup, it will backfire.”
The Pope has made the move after discussions with Boston Cardinal and head of the child protection panel Sean O’Malley – and the rest of his advisory Council of Cardinals.
Bishops are already required to report any plausible accusations of child abuse to the Vatican. However, disciplinary actions and preventative measures vary from one country to another.
Cardinal O’Malley’s panel is tasked with bringing a more consistent process for each country to follow.
However, two members of the panel resigned last year due to a lack of action from the Vatican. A key complaint was that Pope Francis went back on his promise to set up a tribunal for bishops accused of covering up abuse.
The statement from the Vatican was unclear about whether the meeting would include discussions on how to discipline abusive priests – or bishops who cover for them.
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling