Pope OKs probe into US bishop as he meets with US delegation

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Also on Wednesday, it was revealed that the German Catholic Church will admit to "at least" 3,766 cases of child sex abuse by the clergy between 1946 and 2014 in an upcoming report that leaked to local media outlets Die Zeit and Spiegel Online.

While Pope Francis has refused to respond to Vigano's allegations so far, the Vatican said Monday that he was "formulating the eventual and necessary clarifications".

A Vatican spokeswoman said the summit would be attended by the heads of national Catholic bishops conferences between February 21-24.

The USCCB headquarters in Washington, D.C., released a short statement more than three hours after the meeting saying the pope had "listened very deeply from the heart" as they spoke to him in "a lengthy, fruitful and good exchange" about how the USA church had been "lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse".

The credibility of the USA church leadership is now in tatters over the McCarrick scandal and recent revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which found that some 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s - and that a string of bishops in six dioceses covered up for them, including the current archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed in an 11-page statement Francis lifted unconfirmed Vatican sanctions against the disgraced McCarrick when Benedict XVI was in the papal throne.

The head of the USA bishops conference, Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, had requested the papal audience last month following revelations that McCarrick had risen through church ranks even though the allegations of sexual misconduct were known in US and Vatican circles.

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No statement was scheduled to be released following the meeting at the Vatican, said a spokeswoman for the Holy See.

The Council of Cardinals, sometimes called the "C9", is a group formed by Pope Francis himself, some members of which have been bogged down in recent days by their own set of scandals.

Francis removed him in July when the allegations were deemed credible, and since then, several other former seminarians and priests have come forward saying they were also abused or harassed by McCarrick.

An open question in advance of the summit is whether the Vatican will issue a universal call for bishops and religious superiors to report suspected abuse to police; now, it advises church leaders to report suspected abuse when it's required under local laws.

The Vatican said that a West Virginian bishop, Michael Bransfield, who resigned yesterday, was being investigated for molesting adults. The grand jury. The report found that a string of bishops in six dioceses covered up for the predators, including the current archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

"My primary concern is for the care and support of the priests and people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston at this hard time".

He said: "In these times, it seems like the 'Great Accuser" has been unchained and has it in for bishops.

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