Pope Francis is summoning the presidents of every bishops conference around the world for a February summit to discuss preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children.
Francis’ key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, as the latest chapter in the Catholic Church’s long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal has thrown Francis’ papacy into crisis.
The Feb. 21-24 meeting is believed to be the first of its kind, and signals a realization at the highest levels of the church that clergy sex abuse is a global problem and not restricted to the Anglo-Saxon world, as many church leaders have long insisted.
Francis’ papacy has been jolted by accusations he rehabilitated a top American cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI for having molested and harassed adult seminarians.
News of the summons from Pope Francis came on the same day that a leading German magazine said a report on sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in Germany details 3 677 abuse cases by Catholic clergy between 1946 and 2014.
Spiegel Online wrote Wednesday the report it obtained – commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by three universities – concludes that more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1 670 clergy were involved.
The German Bishops Conference had no immediate comment but said it was preparing a response.