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In other eyebrow-raising comments on Tuesday, a top aide to both Francis and Benedict said the sex abuse scandal was such a game-changing catastrophe for the church that it amounted to its "own 9/11". It said that the Americans briefed the pope on the "laceration" that abuse has caused and that "we look forward to actively continuing our discernment together identifying the most effective next steps".

As the moment the U.S. cardinals arrived for their meeting with Francis in the Vatican's apostolic palace, the Holy See announced the Pope had ordered Archbishop of Baltimore, William E. Lori, to investigate harassment allegations against West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield.

Vatican officials said the U.S. Catholic leaders want to discuss the demands of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican's former ambassador to the United States.

The six present for the September meeting were: Cardinals O'Malley, 74; Pietro Parolin, 63, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, 75, of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Oswald Gracias, 73, of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, 64, of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Giuseppe Bertello, 75, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

This story has been corrected to say that Lori is archbishop of Baltimore, not bishop. A Vatican statement said the meeting also will include Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield.

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The pope's acceptance of his resignation was announced just as a four-member US delegation of bishops - including Bransfield's cousin, Monsignor Brian Bransfield - was meeting with Francis about the impact of recent revelations of sex abuse by priests and cover-ups by the church that have implicated Francis himself.

Last month, a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed more than 1,000 children were sexually abused by more than 300 clergy members.

In a letter to priests in the diocese, Wuerl said he will meet with Francis about the resignation he presented almost three years ago at age 75, the mandatory age for Catholic bishops to submit their retirement to the Pope. Not long after the report came out, Wuerl's name was removed from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry Township, Butler County. As a fruit of our discernment I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented almost three years ago, November 12, 2015.

Pope Francis has summoned the presidents of Catholic bishops conferences worldwide to the Vatican in February to discuss how to stop clergy from sexually abusing children. Surveys show plummeting confidence in the Church the United States, Chile, Australia, and Ireland where the scandal has hit hardest, as well as in other countries.

He added: "Elitism, clericalism fosters every form of abuse. I ask you for help with this". Two dioceses also had announced allegations of inappropriate contact between Archbishop McCarrick and seminarians, resulting in settlements totaling more than $100,000.


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