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Pope calls meeting of key bishops on sexual abuse - Vatican

A Vatican spokeswoman said the meeting of the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences would take place 21-24 February.

FILE: Pope Francis. AFP.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has summoned senior bishops from around the world to the Vatican in February to discuss the protection of minors from sexual abuse, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

A Vatican spokeswoman said the meeting of the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences would take place 21-24 February.

The calling of the February meeting comes in the wake of fresh sexual abuse scandals in a number of countries, including the United States (US), Chile and Australia.

The Catholic Church in the US 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 US 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 US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), asked for the meeting after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano last month accused the pope of knowing for years about sexual misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and of doing nothing about it.

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