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Viganò's accusations came on the heels of a Pennsylvania grand jury report which detailed over 1,000 instances of sexual abuse by 300 priests and cover-ups by bishops.

As a result the former papal envoy to Washington called for the pope to resign.

Remarkably, Vatican City itself has no such policy, even though the Holy See promised the United Nations five years ago that it was developing a "safe environment program" - including written guidelines - to protect children inside the 110-acre (44-hectare) Vatican City.

Bransfield's resignation was accepted just eight days after he turned 75, the age at which diocesan bishops are requested to submit a letter of resignation to the pope. "This needs to be elevated to truth and justice, that means cleanse the problem with total transparency and total accountability so that the healing can begin and so that the church can renew itself". Two people told the Associated Press they went to DiNardo to tell him about an abusive priest in his Texas archdiocese but that DiNardo didn't act.

The petition asked the pope to remove Wuerl from his position for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of minors and paying off clergy to lie about their stories while serving as bishop of Pittsburgh.

Wuerl's credibility first came into question when he declared that he knew nothing of the abuse settlements paid to sex abuse victims of his predecessor, disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

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Even as actions to address Chile were underway, Francis' papacy was jolted last month by accusations from a retired Vatican ambassador that Francis himself rehabilitated a top American cardinal accused of molesting and harassing adult seminarians.

The current Washington Cardinal has remained adamant he had no idea until recently.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) commented Thursday on the sexual abuse and cover-up scandal that is rocking the Catholic church. Francis called for an unprecedented meeting of Catholic bishops in February to discuss the sexual abuse scandal and what can be done to keep children safe.

Francis' key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, a day before Francis meets with U.S. church leaders, who are facing fresh accusations following the bombshell grand jury report.

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.

The Pope held an emergency summit with a delegation of American bishops at the Vatican to consider a response to a United States grand jury report in July that 1,000 children had been molested in Pennsylvania since the 1940s. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the conference, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the conference.