On Wednesday, the papal press office announced that Pope Francis will convene the presidents of the Catholic bishops conferences from around the world. They are to meet at the Vatican from February 21 to February 24. "The Holy Father Francis, after hearing the Council of Cardinals, has decided to convene a meeting with the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the 'protection of minors,'" announced the press office.
The announcement follows a number of embarrassing revelations about sexual abuse by clerics and laity in the worldwide church. One was a 900-page report from a grand jury in Pennsylvania that exposed sexual abuse of minors and young adults allegedly committed by priests and laity since 1947. In Germany, a report that was leaked on Wednesday shows that Catholic officials in Germany admitted to at least 3,766 instances of the abuse of minors 1946 and 2014, according to Die Zeit and Spiegel Online.
Pope Francis has criticized for his perceived mishandling of the abuse. For example, an open letter from the Catholic Women's forum, with more than 44,000 signatures, calls for a response to allegations from to a letter released by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò -- a former Vatican diplomat -- that Pope Francis knew about accusations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2013 but did not take subsequent action. McCarrick’s successor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, whose judgement has also been questioned, is expected to resign his post after announcing that he will go to the Vatican to meet the Pope.