Pope Francis will gather the presidents of all bishop conferences worldwide next year in a summit on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
The announcement comes as the Vatican faces renewed criticism over sexual abuse allegations and a day before the Pope meets with US church leaders, who have been reeling from a recent damaging report of decades-long sex abuse in the state of Pennsylvania.
Preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children will be at the center of the high-level summit, the Vatican said. The meeting will take place between February 21 and 24, 2019.
The 2019 summit signals that Francis and the Church have acknowledged the global scope of the sexual abuse scandal. Inaction on the issue could threaten to undermine the legacy of the Pope.
Recently, the Vatican was rocked by accusations against the Holy See from retired ambassador Carlo Maria Vigano, who alleged that Francis had rehabilitated a top American cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI for having molested and harassed adult seminarians.
The Vatican hasn't responded to the accusations but has promised "clarifications" that could be provided sometime after Francis' meeting with the US delegation.
Earlier on Wednesday, German media reported on the findings of a study commissioned by the German Catholic Church on sexual abuse. The study noted that more than three thousand victims in a span of more than 60 years were abused by 1,677 priests across 27 dioceses nationwide. The revelations are likely to increase the pressure on the church for reform and serve as more proof of the scale of Catholic Church sexual abuse worldwide.
jcg/rc (AP, dpa)