The Pope has summoned American cardinals to the Vatican for an extraordinary meeting to talk about sex scandals that are hitting the Catholic church in the US on an almost daily basis.
The meeting was scheduled for April 23-24, officials said.
The summons comes just days after the top US bishops were in Rome for their semi-annual talks with Pope John Paul II. The sex abuse scandals dominated the discussions.
Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the 81-year-old pontiff wants to help.
‘‘He extended his hand in support to the bishops of the United States,’’ Gregory said. ‘‘The Holy See has demonstrated an extraordinary openness in understanding the particular situation that we face in the United States.’’
Gregory said there was no discussion of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who has faced growing criticism since acknowledging he transferred a priest to another parish despite knowing of sexual misconduct allegations against the man.
Law, once touted to become the next pope, has refused to resign despite growing pressure on him.
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere is under fire for its handling of a series of allegations of paedophilia by priests.
The church is accused of covering up misconduct by priests, in some cases by moving known abusers from job to job. It has already paid millions of pounds in damages and faces numerous lawsuits from victims.
John Paul has spoken only briefly of the scandals and some critics have sharply faulted the Vatican for a lack of leadership in a time of deep crisis.