Bishop Michael Bransfield resigns; sexual harassment investigation launched

The Vatican said in a statement the pope would meet US church leaders on Thursday

The Vatican said in a statement the pope would meet US church leaders on Thursday

Separately, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said on its website that Mr Bransfield, 75, will be investigated over "allegations of sexual harassment of adults".

Pope Francis met with United States bishops and cardinals on Thursday (Sep 13) to discuss the Vatican's response to a new wave of devastating claims of sexual abuse by clergy. The USCCB statement said, "We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together, identifying the most effective next steps".

"In these times, it seems like the "Great Accuser" [a reference to Satan] has been unchained and is attacking bishops", Pope Francis said.

The Vatican is grappling with claims that the leader of the Catholic Church helped cover up an American cardinal's misconduct.

The church did not provide additional information about the allegations Bransfield faces.

In a letter to priests, the 77-year-old cardinal wrote that he plans to meet with the Pope to discuss stepping down.

The decision comes on the same day a USA delegation met with Pope Francis over the latest chapter in the Catholic Church's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

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The US church was also rocked by a grand jury report that said 300 priests in Pennsylvania had abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s.

DiNardo's deputy Jose Horacio Gomez and general secretary Brian Bransfield also attended the closed-door meeting.

DiNardo, who had requested the meeting in response to the sexual abuse scandal around Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, said it "was a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange" and that the pope "listened very deeply from the heart".

Pope Francis had on September 12 ordered the convention of a global summit of presidents of Catholic bishops' conferences to address the issue and the protection of children as the Church faces a growing backlash amid widespread allegations of child abuse and cover-ups from Chile in South America to Germany in Europe. He had said he wanted to discuss further action to deal with and stop cases of clerical sexual abuse in the USA, including how to make bishops more accountable for their actions or punishable for their mismanagement.

In a letter to priests in the diocese, Wuerl acknowledged Catholics' questions about their bishops' ability to lead them to healing amid a massive clerical sex-abuse crisis, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The Vatican in 2011 ordered every bishops conference around the world to develop written guidelines to prevent abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

A study commissioned by the German bishops' conference reports the sexual abuse of thousands of children by priests and religious in that country over a period of 70 years.

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