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Pope orders clergy sex abuse summit

Associated Press / November 9, 2010

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has summoned cardinals from around the world to a daylong summit in Rome next week on the clerical sex abuse scandal and other issues facing the Catholic church, the Vatican said yesterday.

The Vatican called the session “a day of reflection and prayer’’ that will include discussions on threats to religious freedom, relations with other religions, and procedures for disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic church.

Five Church of England bishops announced yesterday that they are converting to Catholicism after Benedict’s invitation to disaffected Anglicans.

The meeting will be Nov. 19, a day before Benedict is scheduled to install 24 new cardinals in a ceremony normally attended by many of the world’s top-ranking churchmen.

Eight years after the US scandal erupted, abuse allegations against Catholic clerics have taken on global dimensions with revelations of thousands of victims and accusations that bishops covered up for pedophile priests and Vatican officials turned a blind eye for decades.

The pope has admitted the church failed to take sufficient measures to stop the abuse. He has met with victims in several countries and has promised to make fighting abuse a priority.

Cardinal William Levada, the American who heads the Vatican office in charge of drawing up policy to fight abuse, will head the discussion.

The head of a victims’ group said the proof will be not in the discussion but in the results.

“It’s easy and tempting to assume this is a positive sign. But that’s irresponsible. We’ll only know if this is a good development when we see action resulting from this meeting. To be swayed by mere talk is to betray vulnerable children and wounded adults,’’ said Barbara Blaine of Chicago, president of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“Talking about abuse is easy, preventing abuse is hard. It takes decisive action to oust predator priests and complicit bishops. And when it comes to abuse, this pope, like his predecessors, has shown little commitment to real action,’’ she said in an e-mail.

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